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Agreement Expands Use of GIS Throughout the USDA

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) entered into a Blanket Purchase Agreement (BPA) with Esri that will expand the use of GIS technology throughout the department by providing a complete enterprise suite of Esri's GIS software to all USDA agencies.

Established in 1862 with a mission to acquire information about American agriculture and disseminate it to the public, the USDA is using GIS to synthesize, analyze, and display complex agricultural, natural resource, environmental, demographic, and socioeconomic data. This agreement will help USDA's workforce provide more efficient and timely services and trim individual agency costs considerably.

The USDA serves Americans through agencies such as Forest Service, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Farm Service Agency (FSA), Rural Development agencies, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, and the Agricultural Research Service. The agencies' activities deal with spatial data describing soil, water, air, plants, animals, land ownership, demographics, and socioeconomics. The USDA has identified GIS technology as a means to efficiently manage and make this data more accessible, increase productivity, and improve customer service.

At the Forest Service, which has existing GIS implementations, the BPA will expand the use of Esri software with ArcSDE and ArcIMS. USDA service centers throughout the country will benefit from new GIS installations and increased program support. The service centers are one-stop shops that bring together services from NRCS, FSA, and Rural Development agencies. The remaining branches of USDA that provide social, statistical, and technological assistance to the public will also implement Esri software. USDA works closely with local conservation districts, and the BPA includes provisions for supplying GIS technology at this local level.

"The USDA service center agencies, including the FSA, NRCS, and Rural Development agencies, have been involved in a modernization effort since 1995," said Dennis Lytle, GIS team leader for the service center agencies at USDA. "GIS is part of the reengineering of our business processes." Before choosing Esri, USDA service center agencies began a rigorous selection process that lasted more than three years and involved extensive market research, a benchmark period, and several pilot installations. Esri came out on top as the vendor with the most complete suite of end-to-end software solutions.

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