Wednesday, March 10, 2010

House Ag and IT in USDA/FSA

House Ag committee held a hearing on the status of USDA and FSA IT, including GIS.  Only the opening statements of the witnesses are available online.  The USDA CIO and FSA Administrator testified.  Much of their statements sounded like 5, 10 or 15 years ago, addressing the same issues of outmoded equipment, stovepipe systems, decentralized chaos among the agencies.  The second session had the National Farmers Union, NASCOE, NAFEC, the National Association of Conservation Districts and the National States GIS council. 

I found the second session more interesting:  One question--why wasn't the Farm Loan organization (the old FmHA specialists) represented?  (To show how slowly things move in USDA, note I'm referring to an organization (FmHA) which disappeared 16 years ago.)  They certainly have IT concerns, although the Administrator seemed to say their systems were in the best shape of any.  A surprise--the NASCOE rep said GIS products were the single biggest workload item. An unlikely request--the National GIS rep asked for dedicated money for the NAIP (aerial photos/GIS) separate from FSA money, but was very complimentary of the Salt Lake City staff.  I wonder why that was--is it possible that because the Aerial Photography Field Office in Salt Lake is the only FSA office which produces real, tangible products (setting checks to producers aside), that it's easier for them to take a businesslike approach to its operations?

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