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Winter 2001/2002
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Many USDA Agencies Use GIS

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recognizes that implementing GIS technology throughout its many agencies, services, and programs is beneficial and, in many instances, essential to improving agency Business processes and customer service. USDA agencies that use geospatial data to provide a range of services and activities include

  • Agricultural Research Service (ARS)--The ARS is the principal research agency of USDA. GIS implementations help ARS further scientific knowledge in the areas of precision agriculture and crop anomaly detection.
  • Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS)--Charged with protecting America's plant and animal resources, APHIS uses GIS for surveillance of spatially based diseases, environmental analysis, pattern and population density analysis, regionally based health surveys, allocation of resources, and development of regional strategies.
  • Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES)--Focusing on advancing a global system of research, extension, and higher education in the food and agricultural sciences, CSREES emphasizes partnerships with the public and private sectors. GIS enables CSREES to maximize limited resources by providing efficient services such as natural resource management, precision agriculture, environmental analysis, water quality modeling, rural community planning, and spatial analysis of agency funding.
  • Economic Research Service (ERS)--GIS provides ERS with economic analyses to support a competitive agricultural system, a safe food supply, harmony between agriculture and the environment, and a healthy and enhanced lifestyle for rural Americans.
  • Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS)--Working to improve foreign market access for U.S. products, FAS operates programs designed to build new markets and improve the competitive position of U.S. agriculture in the global marketplace. GIS assists FAS in preparing global crop condition assessments, early warnings of unusual crop conditions, and agricultural disaster response programs.
  • Food and Nutrition Service (FNS)--FNS administers food assistance programs that provide needy persons with access to a more nutritious diet, improve the eating habits of the nation's children, and help America's farmers by providing an outlet for the distribution of food. GIS will assist in program evaluations and in areas such as the Direct School Lunch program.
  • U.S. Forest Service (USFS)--There are many existing GIS implementations throughout the USFS that have enabled it to improve the quality of its services such as forest, range, wildlife, and recreation planning and management; fire response and recovery; ecosystem restoration; resource inventory and assessment; natural disaster response and recovery; landownership survey, recordation, and administration; facilities and constructed feature management; and road and trail network analysis.
  • Farm Service Agency (FSA)--To help farmers and ranchers and promote sensible stewardship of the land, FSA administers many programs including farm loans, farm programs, food aid, and conservation incentives. GIS installations assist FSA staff with work involving land records management, compliance, and disaster assessment.
  • Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS)--Ensuring that the nation's commercial supply of meat, poultry, and egg products is safe, wholesome, and correctly packaged and labeled involves many GIS activities in the FSIS. These include land use and agriBusiness geocoding, maintaining a document and distribution system, environmental justice impact assessments, epidemiological surveillance of foodborne disease and hazards, and microbial risk assessment support for food safety.
  • National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS)--To help provide timely, accurate, and useful statistics to the U.S. agriculture industry. GIS performs analyses of agriculture status and trends and provides a cropland data layer and vegetation condition images to the public.
  • Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)--NRCS works in partnership with people to conserve, improve, and sustain natural resources. GIS applications at the NRCS involve conservation planning; animal feeding operations; resource inventory and assessment; watershed and water quality assessment and planning; range, woodland, wildlife, and urban management; disaster assessment and response; community planning and development; geographic/demographic allocation of resources; and program and policy evaluation.
  • Office of Community Development (OCD)--OCD is part of USDA's Rural Development mission and provides leadership in the delivery of community development support through Rural Development's field offices to rural communities across the United States. To continue these services, OCD is supported by GIS in economic and community development planning, program and policy evaluation, and geographic/demographic allocation of resources.
  • Risk Management Agency (RMA)--RMA administers federal crop insurance programs and works toward enhancing products and delivery, increasing awareness and use of risk management tools, improving program integrity, and protecting taxpayer funds. Compliance, risk assessment, and risk education are GIS applications at RMA.
  • Rural Business-Cooperative Service (RBS)--To build competitive Businesses and sustainable cooperatives, RBS services include offering financial resources investing; providing technical assistance; and establishing strategic alliances and partnerships that leverage public, private, and cooperative resources to create jobs and stimulate rural economic activity. Customer local and regional planning, agency strategic planning, and agency program management are among its GIS functions.
  • Rural Housing Service (RHS)--The work of RHS addresses housing options for single rural residents, rural families, and underserved rural residents including farm workers, the elderly, and those living in some of America's poorest rural communities. GIS supports RHS programs in customer, local, and regional planning, environmental analysis, agency strategic planning, and program management and evaluation.
  • Rural Utilities Service (RUS)--RUS helps rural utilities expand and maintain up-to-date technology, and it works to establish new and vital services such as distance learning and telemedicine. GIS applications within RUS include environmental analysis, customer, local and regional planning, program management, and program and policy evaluation.

For more information, contact John Steffenson, USDA account manager for Esri (tel.: 303-449-7799, e-mail: or Max Crandall, Esri agriculture solutions manager (tel.: 909-793-2853, ext. 1-2309).

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