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Category: Technology and Broadband

It’s Said That No One can Predict the Weather, but Scientists at the Ag Outlook Forum Give it a Shot

This graphic shows past records and predictions based on the Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI). Provided the by U.S. Forest Service.

This graphic shows past records and predictions based on the Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI). Provided the by U.S. Forest Service.

Weather….  We all care about it. In many communities, local TV and radio weather forecasters are celebrities, and for good reason.  While we can’t do much about the weather, it affects us all every day.

During last week’s Agricultural Outlook Forum two sessions drew exceptionally large crowds.  One was the Friday afternoon “Weather and Agriculture” segment and another was the morning “Markets and Weather” presentation.  While no one can say for sure what the weather outlook will be for the 2014 summer growing season, Brad Rippey, agricultural meteorologist with USDA’s Office of the Chief Economist (OCE), Eric Luebehusen, OCE ag. meteorologist and Anthony Artusa, meteorologist with the Climate Protection Section of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration made some observations and predictions in the afternoon session.  The snowpack in the West’s Sierra Nevada is far below normal.  The Western winter wet season has been a bust, with winter precipitation less than 10 percent of average in some areas.  California, the Great Basin and southern Great Plains are in drought.  The meteorologists said California, the lower gulf coast and much of New Mexico, Arizona and Texas could see above normal temperatures and below normal precipitation in March, April and May.  According to Rippey, “We need a miracle March in 2014 to avoid major problems in California.”  The most current information is available through NOAA’s Seasonal Drought Outlook map and the USDA drought monitor. Read more »

#Newfarmers: Please Join me at the Table

Coming from a farming family in Georgia, I know firsthand the risks farmers take each and every day. The work is hard, the margins are slim and Mother Nature can be fickle. The questions that my family is asking about what happens to our farm in the future are questions that are shared by farmers across the country. Where will the next generation of farmers come from? Who will they be? Where will they live? How will they get started? What do they need to succeed?

Yesterday, I hosted a Google+ Hangout with Kate Danner and Alejandro Tecum, two passionate individuals who share a love of agriculture. They spoke about the challenges and experiences of new farmers across the country. With the recent Agricultural Census indicating the average age of farmers continues to rise and opportunities for new farmers are growing, I wanted to know why Kate and Alejandro got into agriculture and what advice they could offer to others interested in doing the same. Read more »

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 »