I posted the other day about NRCS using aerial observation to check compliance with sod/swampbuster provisions.
There was a NY Times article today about conflict between the military and the National Reconnaissance Office. It seems commercial satellites today are almost as good as the governments, particularly for the sort of imagery the military needs, and they're a lot cheaper. So the issue is where to spend scarce dollars: on commercial contracts or developing the government's.
Along the same lines, I wonder if NRCS has looked at using Google Earth for a first crack at spotchecking practices. Granted their imagery isn't updated often, certainly wouldn't be timely for FSA purposes, but it might work for some NRCS purposes. Matter of fact, if the district conservationist "flew" the county through Google Earth once a year, couldn't she/he learn something?
Down the line, maybe APFO should tap into the commercial satellite facilities?
[Updated: added title]