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Category: Technology and Broadband

Big Data Implications for the Production of Official Statistics

Dr. Daniel Pfeffermann at the Morris Hansen Lecture.

Dr. Daniel Pfeffermann, current President of the International Association of Survey Statisticians, discussed the implications big data might have for the production of official statistics at the recent Morris Hansen Lecture, an annual, open-to the-public education and outreach event held at USDA’s Jefferson Auditorium in Washington D.C. Pfeffermann stressed that big data may improve the timeliness of statistics while reducing response burden, but only if big data can be properly assessed, analyzed and interpreted to provide high quality, accurate information that is truly of value to users. USDA/NASS Photo by Dan Beckler.

Unless you live completely off the grid, you likely have heard of, and contribute to, “big data,” the often-used catch phrase describing massive (and ever-increasing) volumes of information stored digitally on computers, servers and clouds.

From advertisers using data mined from customer interactions; to government agencies making data public so developers can create beneficial mobile apps; to farmers applying statistical data to determine their production and marketing practices, a wide-variety of people and industries use big data. Read more »

2015 Agricultural Outlook Forum – Panel Discussion on Innovation, Biotechnology and Big Data

Innovation, biotechnology and big data are changing the way we produce, distribute and even consume food. From using innovative approaches to improve food safety to sharing market data to assist producers in reaching larger markets, big data and new technologies continue to change the face of agriculture.  USDA strives to meet these evolving challenges and will be discussing these issues through the lens of agriculture at the 2015 Agricultural Outlook Forum on Feb. 19-20 in Arlington, Virginia.

Big data isn’t just massive amounts of numbers and codes for scientists, researchers and marketers.  That information, when interpreted and applied, can help people understand – and change – the world around them.  We are discussing how data helps producers of agricultural commodities in adapting their strategies to meet changing consumer demands, marketing practices and technologies. Read more »

Grain Inspectors “Make the Grade” with Digital Media Tools

A kernel of corn with a reference for mold damage

Inspector comparing a kernel of corn to the reference for mold damage.

Most consumers may not realize it, but in many ways grain inspection has not changed much over the years.  Even though there are sophisticated scientific tests today to measure moisture, oil, protein and several other intrinsic qualities of grain, the human eye still carries the most weight when judging a grain sample for classification and grade.

To ensure consistency and uniformity throughout the grading process, individual graders need lasting references.  Digital media is an important tool used to reduce variability and maintain consistency. Read more »

World Accessibility in Rural America

USDA Rural Development and NCTC break ground on a new high speed broadband project serving rural Tennessee and Kentucky.

USDA Rural Development and NCTC break ground on a new high speed broadband project serving rural Tennessee and Kentucky.

Access to the world via internet and mobile phone services is at the fingertips of most Americans, but this is not the reality for residents of many rural communities across the Nation.

In October 2014, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced $190.5 million in grants and loans to make broadband and other advanced communications infrastructure improvements in rural areas. Read more »

Exploration and Agriculture: Connecting the Next Generation with Science to Grow the Future

Deputy Secretary Harden and 4-H'ers observe plant growing experiments at the NASA Space Life Science Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Deputy Secretary Harden and 4-H'ers observe plant growing experiments at the NASA Space Life Science Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Last week, we entered a bold new era of exploration and discovery as NASA launched the Orion spacecraft, a major step testing the possibility of going to Mars.

As NASA contemplates sending human missions to Mars, one question we must answer is: what will the astronauts eat and what foods will assist future missions? NASA and USDA are working together to develop plants that can grow, thrive, and produce in new environments – signaling opportunities for fresh, nutrition-rich food for astronauts on long duration space flights. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: USDA Partners with Native Americans

Shortly after taking office, I joined other Cabinet officials on a visit to rural Southwest Alaska. We met with Alaska Native leaders and heard firsthand the difficulties facing Native Americans living in small communities in remote, rural areas. Since that time, this administration has worked each day to provide Native Americans with improved housing, better educational opportunities, clean water and sanitation, and the opportunity to create good jobs. Across government, and here at USDA, we’ve made progress.

This past week, I joined President Obama and members of the Cabinet at the sixth White House Tribal Nations Conference here in Washington, DC. In addition to serving as the Chair of the White House Rural Council, I am also a member of the White House Council on Native American Affairs, chaired by Interior Secretary Sally Jewell. Our priorities in Indian Country include promoting sustainable economic development; supporting greater access to and control over healthcare; improving the effectiveness and efficiency of tribal justice systems; expanding and improving educational opportunities for Native American youth; and protecting and supporting the sustainable management of Native lands, environments and natural resources. Read more »