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Posts tagged: #AgInnovates

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 »

Mapping U.S. Agriculture

2012 Ag Census Web Maps tool helps you create a visual overview of data for U.S. farm demographics, economics, crops, and livestock.

2012 Ag Census Web Maps tool helps you create a visual overview of data for U.S. farm demographics, economics, crops, and livestock.

Agricultural data are valuable for analysis, and thanks to the Census of Agriculture and other surveys, NASS has plenty of data available. As a cartographer, however, I obviously prefer to present the data in map form. A map gives anyone a chance to visualize data for multiple geographic areas as a cohesive image, providing a graphic overview of the agricultural phenomena. It also allows map readers to visually compare regions, and discern patterns and relationships in the data across regions, topics, and time.

When it came to the ag census, for each of the past eight editions, NASS produced an atlas of thematic (statistical) maps illustrating various aspects of U.S. agriculture. While great for their time, with the evolution of digital technology, these paper maps are no longer sufficient on their own. The component missing from them is the data behind the maps, so what better way to depict and also convey a myriad of county-level statistics than through a web map application? Read more »

#AgStrong Innovation in Rural America

Almond growers are innovative in their water savings. This orchard uses micro-irrigation, which efficiently directs water. Photo courtesy of the Almond Board.

Almond growers are innovative in their water savings. This orchard uses micro-irrigation, which efficiently directs water. Photo courtesy of the Almond Board.

It takes a lot of hard work to make a living out of farming, to build a thriving agricultural business and it takes ingenuity. This is especially true in rural America, where dedicated farmers and ranchers rely on each other and the communities around them to fuel innovation and create opportunity. From nutritional research to competitions that promote sustainability and continued environmental care, ag promotion programs—with oversight from USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS)—help American farmers make long-term investments that ensure a better future for everyone.

For more than 30 years, California almond growers have pooled their resources under the Almond Board, focusing on research and techniques to make the most of precious water resources.  Efficient water use and irrigation management are vital to the success of California’s Central Valley almond growers, ensuring that consumer demand for almonds can be met sustainably.  State-of-the-art farming and production developments over the past two decades have helped farmers reduce the amount of water they use per pound of almonds grown by 33 percent. Key strategies have included the wide adoption of micro-irrigation as well as advances in soil assessment and monitoring. Read more »

Conservation Program to Launch Bold Ideas, Accelerate Innovation

NRCS Chief Weller talks with partners, conservation agencies and landowners during a conservation tour in Illinois.

NRCS Chief Weller talks with partners, conservation agencies and landowners during a conservation tour in Illinois.

When USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) launched the Regional Conservation Partnership Program, (RCPP) we envisioned a program that would help local and diverse organizations to accelerate innovation, bring new partners to the table, and demonstrate the value and effectiveness of voluntary, private lands conservation to a national audience.

The response was tremendous! More than 5,000 partners submitted nearly 600 pre-proposals from all 50 states and each critical conservation area. The total amount of NRCS funding requested was more than six times what was available. About $2.7 billion in federal assistance was requested, but incredibly these partnerships offered about $2.9 billion in leveraged conservation funding and in-kind support to deliver their projects. In the end, NRCS has about $394 million in total funding to co-invest in projects during this first signup. Read more »

New Program Helps Bringing Technology and Innovation to Market

An abundant blackberry crop that is easier to harvest on the Rotating Cross-Arm Trellis, which is on the market thanks to an SBIR loan. Photo Fumiomi Takeda, ARS.

An abundant blackberry crop that is easier to harvest on the Rotating Cross-Arm Trellis, which is on the market thanks to an SBIR loan. Photo Fumiomi Takeda, ARS.

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

Research, even cutting edge research, is often only half the battle when it comes to solving an agricultural problem. You’ve got to get those results out of the laboratory and into the market place before people can use them.

But a new facet of USDA’s Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR) from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture set up this summer will help make it a little easier for technologies from the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) to do just that.

USDA’s SBIR program makes grants to small businesses to help move agricultural research down the road to commercial products. Read more »

No Sour Grapes for a Nebraska Vinegar Crafter

A sampling of the signature 'Emilia' blend from George Paul Vinegars of Cody, Nebraska. (Photo Credit Alan J. Bartels / NebraskaLife)

A sampling of the signature 'Emilia' blend from George Paul Vinegars of Cody, Nebraska. (Photo Credit Alan J. Bartels / NebraskaLife)

Fifteen years ago, George Johnson and his daughter, Emily, began their first foray into winemaking, vinifying local wild grapes and other fruits in their home in rural Cody, Nebraska. At the suggestion of a family friend, they began to experiment with turning their uniquely flavored wines into vinegar, and today, Johnson operates one of the most successful independent vinegar businesses in the nation. With customers in every state and the loyalty of top chefs in Omaha, St. Louis, and Chicago, George Paul Vinegars offers a product ripe with old-world methodology and modern entrepreneurial spirit.

With the help of a $40,000 USDA Value-Added Producer Grant, the Johnsons conducted a feasibility study to gauge the likelihood of success for an independent vinegary in rural Nebraska, and were thrilled when the study indicated enormous potential for their unique product. With continued support from a Nebraska Agricultural Innovation Value-Added Agriculture grant from the Nebraska Rural Development Commission, George Paul Vinegars produces seven handcrafted varieties ranging from standards like apple cider and raspberry vinegars to more specialized flavors, including Johnson’s signature “Emilia” blend. Read more »