Become a fan on Facebook Follow us on Twitter USDA Blog Feed Watch USDA videos on YouTube Subscribe to receive e-mail updates View USDA Photos on Flickr Subscribe to RSS Feeds

Category: Technology and Broadband

Developing Solutions for an Off-line USDA

As the world’s focus on mobile computing intensifies, several USDA agencies are working towards solutions for technology users in an off-line environment. These agencies are developing mobile applications that allow workers to input and collect data in the field, help firefighters share wildland fire information as it happens, and keep employees in the field and out of the office connected – all without a Wi-Fi connection.

With more and more organizations embracing the mobility movement as a way to improve communication and productivity, off-line technology users are in danger of being left behind. Without connectivity, their tablets and smartphones are little more than costly accessories. They cannot share essential information with their colleagues. They waste valuable time travelling to a fixed workstation to submit paperwork – paperwork that they could have otherwise submitted via a mobile tablet. Bottom line: users of USDA applications need the ability to work anywhere, whether they are connected or not. Read more »

Keeping USDA Employees Connected For Better Service

Developing a modern USDA for a stronger rural America means equipping USDA’s employees who work in every American state and U.S. territory, as well as in over 50 countries, with information technology tools that ensure they are better informed, better engaged and better able to provide critical feedback to policy makers in real-time.

Mobile devices, enterprise e-mail, video teleconferencing, online employee forums, social media and instant messaging allow employees who fight against hunger, food-borne illness and wildland fires to deliver their mission as well as serve the American public, while coordinating efforts with co-workers and decision makers across vast geographic distances. By remaining connected to both customers in the field and to regional and national government leaders, the on-the-ground knowledge of customer needs can much more quickly drive needed changes in policies and procedures that make USDA’s programs more accessible to the American public. Read more »

Good-Bye, Willie

USDA Farm Service Agency employee Willie Cooper retires after more than 56 years.

USDA Farm Service Agency employee Willie Cooper retires after more than 56 years.

Willie F. Cooper recently retired after more than 56 years with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Three hundred of his Louisiana friends – more if the rain doesn’t freeze — are prepared to honor Willie Feb. 11, in Alexandria, La.

At retirement, people often reflect on their careers.  Willie has a lot on which to reflect.  He started in August 1957 with the Farm Service Agency (FSA).  Back then it was called the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service.

In a recent conversation, Willie spoke about the thing that amazed him the most during employment with FSA – technology.  Some changes affected everyone, but the technology that stood out the most for Willie Cooper was what affected farming.  “It blows your mind,” he said. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: Innovation for a Stronger Rural America

Innovation is at the heart of the American agriculture success story. As a matter of course, today’s farmers and ranchers must constantly prepare and adapt to get ahead of tomorrow’s challenges.

At USDA, we have a long history of fostering research and innovation that help agricultural production thrive. I am pleased that the 2014 Farm Bill, signed into law today by President Obama, includes new support for agricultural research and, through a new research foundation, recommits to innovation for years to come. Read more »

USDA Then and Now

For over a century and a half, USDA has worked alongside farmers, businesses, and community leaders to ensure USDA programs put forward the most innovative thinking to meet the changing needs of a modern agricultural landscape. Mission areas across USDA, from agricultural research to forest management to nutrition programs and more, also look forward to create a stronger rural America, better prepared to meet 21st century challenges.

To illustrate some of the major innovations in our recent history to continuously serve communities across the nation – and in honor of Throwback Thursday – we’ve collected several historic photos and paired them with their modern counterparts. This photo series features USDA programs and services, Then and Now, and shows the impact of creative and innovative investments for a brighter future for rural Americans.

Food Stamps to SNAP: Converting from paper coupons to Electronic Benefit Transfer has allowed USDA to increase access to fresh healthy food, including farmers markets, while reducing fraud, waste and abuse within the SNAP program.

A book of paper food stamps used in 1941

This electronic card reader using a wireless connection allows consumers to use the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Electronic Benefits Transfer cards

 

Rural Infrastructure: Rural broadband creates educational, health and economic benefits for rural America, and provides access to new opportunities that may not have been available before.

Rural Electrification Administration workers erect telephone lines in rural areas.

Family Nurse Practitioner and patient using telemedicine equipment to meet virtually with doctors.

 

On the Farm Technology: Modern technology allows agriculture to be more productive than ever before, leading to the strongest 5 years of agriculture exports in our history. Modern tractors and farm equipment often utilize GPS for precision planting or harvesting, and are able to perform tasks like measuring moisture content and weight in real time, and can update yield per acres on the fly during harvest time.

Man planting corn with a team of horses in 1940

A tractor turns the cover crop into the soil in preparation for planting.

 

Conservation: Conservation and risk management practices have helped to bring us into a 21st century of land stewardship, promoting soil health and healthy land management that help to ensure that the dust bowl of the 1930′s is history. Making reliable, effective risk management tools available for producers to make sound decisions that benefit the land is just one way USDA helps farmers and ranchers help the land.

Dust blown by the wind from an Iowa field that was not planted to grass to prevent soil erosion in 1890.

View of farmland and mountain range.

These are the first of many Then and Now images we’ll share, but we’d love to hear from you. We know some of agriculture’s most compelling innovation stories are the ones seldom told. Use #AgInnovates to add your voice to our shared story and tell us how your family or community has evolved to meet the needs of the 21st century.

#AgInnovates: Modern Solutions for a 21st Century Rural America

In the 151 years since the U.S. Department of Agriculture was founded, America’s oldest industry has evolved to meet the changing needs of our modern agricultural landscape. From growing overseas markets, building a 21st century rural infrastructure, and finding ways to address the challenges of climate change, USDA has worked beside farmers, businesses, and community leaders to streamline programs and spur innovative solutions for today’s challenges.

For USDA, that also means looking inward and changing the way we do business. We have done this by designing initiatives that collectively utilize the full scope of our mission, better focusing resources and staff across the Department to meet the needs of the communities we serve using modern tools, technology, and processes.

USDA’s recently expanded StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity initiative illustrates this trend with a broad commitment to rally available tools and technical assistance to combat persistent poverty in rural communities in 20 states.

Our Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative aims to support the rapidly expanding local and regional food market with new products and services, as well as tailored cross-agency web resources and data that illustrate opportunities and promote local and regional food systems.

And finally, through the Blueprint for Stronger Service, USDA responded to the uncertain fiscal environment by streamlining mission critical work and taking a close look at operations to find ways to cut costs and modernize processes to be better stewards of taxpayer dollars – with great results.

Over the next month we’ll share more about the ways that USDA has evolved to meet the needs of modern agriculture in America. We’ll use hashtag #AgInnovates on social media to share these stories, but we want to hear from you too. In the video above, Secretary Vilsack asked you to lend your voice to our collective story of how YOUR community has evolved to meet the needs of the 21st century. A new hospital? Technology enhanced planning, harvest, or conservation practices? A better transportation infrastructure? Education programs to meet the needs of today’s high tech ag sector?

Use #AgInnovates to let us know. We can’t wait to hear from you.