USDA eyes streamlined data harvesting

USDA eyes streamlined data harvesting

The Department of Agriculture wants to simplify the way farmers harvest and deliver their crop reporting data.

In a request for information released Feb. 17, USDA asks industry for off-the-shelf systems that could boost the accuracy and reduce the administrative burden on farmers who are required to report much of the same data to both the Farm Service Agency and the Risk Management Agency.

"It wouldn't take a genius to figure out there's a way to streamline this process," said Blake Hurst, president of the Missouri Farm Bureau.

Besides the duplicated reporting, some data is keyed in manually, introducing plenty of opportunities for human error, according to Hurst and the RFI.

The RFI is part of the USDA's Acreage and Crop Reporting Streamlining Initiative (ACRSI), which seeks to produce "a common USDA framework for producer commodity reporting in support of USDA programs."

The RFI seeks commercial solutions that could unify and automate the two agencies' reporting structures, noting that in the age of "precision agriculture," farmers' GPS-enabled tools are capable of digitally capturing much of the needed data.

However, the RFI is somewhat light on details about that data. "It didn't really get to the important part," said Hudson Hollister, founder and executive director of the Data Coalition. He added that standards, which the RFI doesn't explicitly address, are important to ensure that data can function independent of systems.

But Hollister still classified the RFI as a positive step and expressed hope that the USDA would set standards to simplify and liberate agricultural data as the agency moves toward open data.

"Open data is just as much about standards as it is about publication," he said.

Responses are due by 4 p.m. on March 17.

This article originally appeared on FCW, a sister site to GCN.

About the Author

Zach Noble is a former FCW staff writer.

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