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Category: Technology and Broadband

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 »

Secretary’s Column: Getting Covered is Good for Rural America

Infographic: Getting covered is good for rural America.

Infographic: Getting covered is good for rural America. (click to enlarge image)

Cross posted from the Huffington Post:

Living in a rural community shouldn’t have to come with a hefty price tag for healthcare. On this National Rural Health Day, we celebrate the fact that thanks to the Affordable Care Act, it no longer has to.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is already making a difference in the lives of millions of rural Americans. Prior to the ACA, many rural families had a hard time finding affordable insurance coverage, paying an average of nearly half of their costs out of their own pockets. Many didn’t have access to affordable health insurance through an employer because they were self-employed as farmers, ranchers or rural business owners and entrepreneurs. While those folks take calculated business risks every day, their health should not be one of them. Read more »

Better Service for Rural Renters: Innovative App for Field Employees Streamlines Recordkeeping

Rural Development Specialist Lea McGiboney and Fort Benton, Montana resident Velma Hansen share a laugh as Lea makes sure the Canyon Villas Apartments are providing safe and affordable homes for Velma and her neighbors.

Rural Development Specialist Lea McGiboney and Fort Benton, Montana resident Velma Hansen share a laugh as Lea makes sure the Canyon Villas Apartments are providing safe and affordable homes for Velma and her neighbors.

Velma Hansen has lived in Fort Benton, Montana for over 60 years, the last dozen of them at Canyon Villas. The engaging 91-year-old keeps an impeccably clean apartment in the rent-controlled complex financed by USDA Rural Development. As one of our hundreds of multi-family properties across rural America, Rural Development regularly inspects the properties to ensure they meet basic standards for safe and sanitary housing. If problems are noted, the property owners must address them, and do so immediately.

Right now, a specialist inspects the property, takes paper notes and digital photos, and then returns to the office to input all the data – essentially touching all the data twice to get it in our system – before being able to follow up on any necessary repairs that were noted during the servicing visit. We decided there was opportunity to invest a little technology in streamlining this process. Read more »