Thursday, December 14, 2017

Thursday December 14 Ag News

Fischer Backs Legislation to Help NE Producers Mitigate Drought

Today, U.S. Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, announced she has cosponsored legislation to reauthorize the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS). Across the country, NIDIS works to coordinate drought research and give agriculture producers more information about how to mitigate the effects of drought.

“I am a proud cosponsor of legislation to reauthorize the National Integrated Drought Information System. Nebraskans know well the persistent challenges associated with drought and severe weather. Reauthorizing this program would improve our producers’ ability to address the effects of drought. Importantly, this legislation would also enable the continued partnership between NIDIS and the National Drought Mitigation Center, located at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln,” said Senator Fischer.

The NIDIS reauthorization would help improve our nation’s drought monitoring capabilities by requiring more detailed drought indicators, such as precipitation and soil moisture. The legislation provides stability for NIDIS by reauthorizing the system through 2023. Additionally, it gives the system the opportunity to partner with private sector and academia to enhance our understanding of drought.

 Nebraska Farm Bureau Names 2018 Leadership Academy Class

Ten farmers and ranchers from across Nebraska have been selected for Nebraska Farm Bureau’s 2018 Leadership Academy. The selected farmers and ranchers will begin a year-long program starting Jan. 25-26 at the Holiday Inn in Kearney.

“The goal of the Nebraska Farm Bureau Leadership Academy is to cultivate the talents and strengths of our members and connect their passion for agriculture to opportunities of service within the Farm Bureau organization. Great leaders have a clearly defined purpose; purpose fuels passion and work ethic. By developing leadership skills, academy members can develop their passions and positively impact their local communities and the state of Nebraska.” said Adam Peterson, facilitator of the 2018 Leadership Academy. Peterson works with Audrey Schipporeit, Farm Bureau’s director of generational engagement to help facilitate the program. Peterson also serves as the central regional director of membership for Nebraska Farm Bureau.

Academy members will participate in sessions focused on leadership skills, understanding the county, state, and national structure of the Farm Bureau organization including Farm Bureau’s grassroots network and policy work on agriculture issues. Also, the group will travel to Washington, D.C. in September, for visits with Nebraska’s Congressional delegation and federal agency representatives.

The 2018 Nebraska Farm Bureau Leadership Academy members are:

Lindsay Klug is a member of the Platte County Farm Bureau. Klug attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and received a degree in Animal Science. Klug resides in Columbus, with her husband, who works at his family’s feedlot/farm operation.

Wayne Frederick is a Holt County Farm Bureau member. He attended college and continues to ranch on his family’s cow/calf operation near Amelia.

Kay Kaup is a Holt County Farm Bureau member. Kaup ranches with her husband and three children near Stuart.

Schuyler Tome, a member of the Seward County Farm Bureau, is a sixth-generation farmer and is very proud of his diverse farm near Waco.

Desarae Catlett, a member of the Thomas County Farm Bureau, lives in Thedford. She graduated from the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture in Agronomy and Ag Business in 2016. She is continuing her online education at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln in Applied Science.

Olivia Derr is a Buffalo County Farm Bureau member and received her Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work from the University of Nebraska Kearney. Derr grew up in rural Nebraska and has a passion for agriculture. She works at the Buffalo County Extension office where she works with elementary schools on agriculture related activities to teach children about agriculture and 4-H.

Melissa Haack is a member of the Kearney/Franklin County Farm Bureau. She received her Bachelor's Degree from Doane College and continued with graduate studies at Sam Houston State University in Texas. She works with her husband and five children on their small cow/calf operation near Upland.

Margie McDowell is a member of the Custer County Farm Bureau. She is a self-employed business owner as well as land owner. She manages a heavy construction company as well as a small farm consisting of grass and irrigated ground near Arnold.

Andra Smith, a member of Blaine County Farm Bureau, works on a ranch with her husband and his family near Elsmere. She attended the University of Nebraska–Kearney where she received a degree in Family Studies.

Justin Stockall is a member of Custer County Farm Bureau. Stockall graduated from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and has moved back to manage the family farm. His family has been farming and ranching for 100 years in Custer County near Arnold.

“We congratulate this group of diverse individuals and thank them for their willingness to step up out of their comfort zone to learn more about how they can influence their community, state, and world for the better,” said Schipporeit.

UNL Dairy Store begins selling meat products

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln's Dairy Store has offered premium handmade dairy products since 1917. Now it has added meat to its product offerings.

The East Campus store began selling ribeye, T-bone, porterhouse, sirloin and tenderloin cuts in November. The meat comes from the Loeffel Meat Laboratory and is processed by students in the university’s animal science department.

“While expanding our product selection is always great, this is really about supporting the university community,” said Leroy Braden, Dairy Store manager. "The locally sourced meat is processed entirely by students."

A partnership with the animal science department has been in the works for some time, Braden said. Since the Dairy Store is open daily and sees a consistent amount of traffic, the idea was tossed around to sell meat in addition to ice cream and cheeses. The idea has proven popular.

“We went through the first set of products they brought over pretty quickly,” Braden said.

The Loeffel Meat Laboratory will continue to sell meat from its location in the Animal Science Complex on East Campus from 1 to 5:30 p.m. Tuesdays and 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Fridays.

The addition of meat sales ties in to the Dairy Store’s mission of providing hands-on experience for students in food production and sales.

Sorghum Checkoff Board Directors Sworn in, Officers Elected

Five Sorghum Checkoff board directors were sworn in during the December 13, 2017, board meeting in Lubbock, Texas.

Returning to the board are Verity Ulibarri of McAlister, New Mexico, and Carlton Bridgeforth of Tanner, Alabama. Newly appointed to the board are Klint G. Stewart, of Columbus, Nebraska; Shayne C. Suppes of Scott City, Kansas; and Charles Ray Huddleston of Celina, Texas.

The newly sworn in board members were appointed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue in December and will serve a three-year term.

"We are pleased to welcome both the new and returning directors to the Sorghum Checkoff," said Sorghum Checkoff Executive Director Florentino Lopez. "The board of directors are crucial in our efforts to create producer profitability, expand market opportunities and increase demand for sorghum, and we look forward to working with the appointed board of directors in creating success for our farmers."

New leadership was also elected during the December board meeting. Verity Ulibarri will serve as chairwoman, Jim Massey as vice chairman, Craig Poore as secretary and Carlton Bridgeforth as treasurer.

"I am excited to work with a great said of directors over the coming year," Ulibarri said. "The Sorghum Checkoff board of directors represents all sorghum farmers from across the U.S., and each director brings valuable ideas and experiences. We have a tremendous task before us, and I look forward to serving in this role."

Dale Murden of Harlingen, Texas; John Dvoracek of Farwell, Nebraska; and Adam Baldwin of McPherson, Kansas, completed their terms as board directors. The exiting board directors were honored for their service to the Sorghum Checkoff at a ceremony on Dec. 12.

"We extend our sincerest gratitude to Dale, John and Adam for all of their work on the board," said Sorghum Checkoff CEO Tim Lust. "They have dedicated countless hours over many years to serving on the board and working hard to help bring profitability, growth and innovation to sorghum farmers and this industry."

Iowa Farmland Values Increase After Three Years of Decline

After having fallen in each of the three previous years, the average value of an acre of farmland in Iowa saw an increase in 2017. The average statewide value of an acre of farmland is now estimated to be $7,326. This represents an increase of 2.0 percent, or $143 per acre, from the 2016 estimate.

Land values were determined by the 2017 Iowa State University Land Value Survey, which was conducted in November by the Center for Agricultural and Rural Development (CARD) at Iowa State University and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. Results from the survey are consistent with results by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, the Realtors Land Institute, and the US Department of Agriculture. Wendong Zhang, Assistant Professor of Economics at Iowa State University, led the annual survey.

The $7,326 per acre estimate, and 2.0 percent increase in value, represents a statewide average of low,  medium and high-quality farmland. The survey also reports values for each land quality type, crop reporting district (district hereafter), and all 99 counties individually.

Starting in 2004, several factors, including the ethanol boom and historically low interest rates, drove five consecutive years of double-digit growth in average farmland values, culminating in an historic peak of $8,716 per acre by 2013. Average farmland values then began an immediate decline, dropping 8.9 percent, 3.9 percent, and 5.9 percent, in the following three years. Those declines were the first time since the 1980s farm crisis that farmland values had declined three consecutive years.

Zhang said that limited land supply is the main factor driving this year’s increase in farmland values. “Commodity prices and farm income are still stagnant,” Zhang said. “I would not consider this a turn of the land market. Given the rising interest rates and stagnant farm income, I would not be surprised to see a continued decline in values in the future. This, to me, is a temporary break in a downward adjustment trajectory.”

Land Values by County

Only four of Iowa’s 99 counties — Fremont, Mills, Montgomery, and Page — reported lower land values this year. Each of those counties reported a decline in value of 0.3 percent. For the fifth year in a row, Scott and Decatur counties reported the highest and lowest farmland values, respectively. Decatur County reported a value per acre of $3,480, a gain of $37, or about 1.1 percent, from last year’s report. Scott County reported a value of $10,497, an increase of $162 per acre, or about 1.6 percent.

Other Western Iowa Counties ($$/acre)....

  - Plymouth County - $9156
  - Woodbury County - $6746
  - Manona County - $6516
  - Harrison County - $7174
  - Pottawatomie County - $7777
  - Shelby County - $7726
  - Crawford County - $7870
  - Ida County - $8256
  - Sac County - $9005
  - Carroll County - $8482
  - Audubon County - $7590

Dubuque County reported the largest dollar increase in value with a gain of $335 per acre, and Allamakee and Clayton Counties reported the largest percent increase in values, 4.7 percent. Of the four counties that reported a decrease in value, Mills County had the largest dollar decrease in value, losing about $25 per acre.

Land Values by District

Of the nine crop reporting districts, only the South Central district reported a decrease in average value, with values falling from $4,241 per acre in 2016 to $4,172 in 2017, a loss of 1.6 percent. The Northwest district again showed the highest overall value — $9,388 per acre, up from $9,243 per acre in 2016, a gain of 1.6 percent. The East Central district showed the largest percentage gain in value, 3.8 percent, bringing average value there to $8,218.

Land Value by Quality

Statewide, high, medium and low-quality farmland values increased 2.0 percent, 2.2 percent, and 0.5 percent, respectively. High-quality farmland saw the largest increase in value in the East Central district, 4.2 percent, and the largest decrease in the South Central district, 1.2 percent. Medium-quality farmland increased the most in the Southeast district, 4.2 percent, and the decreased the most in the South Central district, losing 1.2 percent. Low-quality farmland gained the most value in the Northwest district, 3.3 percent, and decreased the most in the Southwest district, where it fell 6.1 percent.

Factors Influencing Land Values

The most common positive factors influencing land prices noted by survey respondents were favorable interest rates, strong crop yields, limited land supply, strong demand, and the availability of cash and credit. The most commonly cited negative influences were lower commodity prices, cash or credit availability, high input prices, weak cash rental rates, an uncertain agricultural future and strong alternative (stock market, economy).

The ISU land value survey was initiated in 1941, the first in the nation, and is sponsored annually by Iowa State University. The survey is typically conducted every November and the results are released mid-December. Only the state average and the district averages are based directly on the ISU survey data. The county estimates are derived using a procedure that combines the ISU survey results with data from the US Census of Agriculture.

The ISU Land Value Survey is based on reports by agricultural professionals knowledgeable of land market conditions such as appraisers, farm managers, agricultural lenders, and actual land sales. It is intended to provide information on general land value trends, geographical land price relationships, and factors influencing the Iowa land market. The 2017 survey is based on 877 usable responses from 710 agricultural professionals. Sixty-four percent of these 710 respondents answered the survey online.

2018 Iowa Forage and Grassland Council Conference Jan. 18

 The 2018 Iowa Forage and Grassland Council Conference will feature speakers and topics of interest to producers raising livestock on patures. The conference Jan. 18 will be held at the Iowa State University Alumni Center, just south of Stephens Auditorium, in Ames.

Registration begins at 8 a.m. with the morning speakers at 9 a.m. Lunch at noon includes the IFGC annual meeting and award recognition, and is followed by a producer panel and speakers. Starting at 3:15 there will be two breakout sessions, each with two options to choose from, and the day ends at 5 p.m. with a networking opportunity for speakers and attendees.

Joe Sellers, ISU Extension and Outreach beef specialist and IFGC past president, said Iowa Forage and Grassland Council is partnering with Practical Farmers of Iowa to offer the 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. sessions presented by Kathy Voth and Rachel Gilker from On Pasture, an online source of science-based, easily understood and relevant information from research to help producers learn more about raising livestock on pasture in profitable and healthful ways.

Conference topics and speakers

-     Establishing Alfalfa in Silage Corn – Dr. John H. Grabber, USDA-ARS, Dairy Forage Research Center, Madison, WI
-    Corn Silage Quality: Before, During and After Storage – Dr. Hugo Ramirez, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach dairy specialist
-    When to Spend Your Money: Fake Science or Good Practice – Kathy Voth and Rachel Gilker, On Pasture
-    Alternative Water Systems – Producer Panel: Ron Dunphy, Justin Rowe, Patrick Wall
-    Will Grazing Save the Planet? – Voth and Gilker
-    Grazing Management for Wildlife – Adam Janke, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach wildlife specialist
-    Iowa Fence Law – Christine Tidgren, Iowa State University Center for Ag Law and Taxation
-    Using BRaNDS to Stretch Feed and Forage Supplies Following a Drought – Garland Dahlke, assistant scientist, Iowa Beef Center
-    Soil Health – Doug Peterson, NRCS regional soil health specialist

“Thanks to support of our sponsors the cost to attend the conference is low,” Sellers said. “IFGC and PFI members pay just $40 in advance or $50 at the door. Non-members pay $60 or $70 respectively. IFGC 2018 membership dues also can be paid at this time.”

Conference sponsors are from the North Central Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education – or SARE - program, Iowa Beef Center, Iowa Farm Bureau, Natural Resources Conservation Service, PFI, Dow AgroSciences, Barenbrug and La Crosse Seed. For more information, contact Sellers by phone at 641-203-1270 or by email at

IA Cattlemen discuss 2018 priorities at annual Leadership Summit

Limiting the growth of environmental regulations, expanding international trade opportunities, and exploring ways to limit market volatility are top priorities for the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association in 2018. Last week’s Iowa Cattle Industry Leadership Summit, also included discussions on immigration and animal health concerns.

The summit, which was held on December 7 & 8 in Ames, combined educational sessions with the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association policy committee meetings and annual meeting.

The Iowa Cattlemen’s Association, which has nearly 10,000 members statewide, uses advocacy, leadership and education to protect and improve Iowa’s cattle business. The 2017 ICA Policy Survey indicated that environmental regulations, international trade, and market volatility are the most important topics that producers want ICA to be working on. ICA has policy related to each of those issues and has been working on them continuously. Last week’s meetings were a chance to fine-tune those policies, as well as create new policy related to other important issues in the industry.

The association has three policy committees, which met on Thursday, Dec. 7: Beef Products, Business Issues and Cattle Production. The committee meetings are open to any ICA members, and generate organizational positions related to important topics affecting Iowa’s beef business. These policies drive the efforts of the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association and are used by staff and leaders in discussions with local and national elected officials and regulatory agencies.

Beef Products:

The Beef Products Committee has strong policy supporting international trade, which is increasingly relevant as ongoing NAFTA negotiations and trade relationships around the world threaten the Iowa beef industry. 

No new policies were discussed in the Beef Products committee meeting.

Business Issues:

The Business Issues committee heard an update from ICA lobbyist Kellie Pashcke on state legislative issues, including foreign animal disease and water quality funding, which remain a priority for cattlemen. Last year, with the support of the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) was able to secure $100,000 in funding for foreign animal disease response, to protect Iowa’s cattle producers in case of an outbreak. This year, despite budget constraints at the state level, IDALS has asked for an additional $150,000, for a total 2018 appropriation of $250,000 for disease preparedness.

Over the summer, ICA members developed interim policy related to Iowa’s master matrix, the system used to evaluate new livestock confinements. A fair and reasonable master matrix is crucial for future growth of the Iowa cattle industry, and enables a new generation of farmers to invest in and strengthen rural areas of Iowa. The interim policy was approved by the committee.

ICA members, including past president Kent Pruismann, discussed the importance of immigrant labor to Iowa agriculture, particularly in northwest Iowa. “If we exported or deported all of the illegal immigrants in Sioux County, Iowa, our economy would collapse, plain and simple, there’s no question about it,” Pruismann said. Ed Greiman, another past president of the association, agreed. “We’ve got to figure out a way to make it simple, with a path they know they can follow to become legal citizens,” he said. The policy committee created an immigration task force to study the issue, and also passed policy supporting legal immigration and a pathway to citizenship.

Transportation regulations, including hours of service and electronic logging devices, have also been a concern for cattle producers, especially as new rules are scheduled to go into place soon. The committee approved policy supporting an exemption from these rules for livestock haulers. Livestock haulers often transport their live cargo long distances, and it is in the best interest of everyone involved to reach the destination with as few delays as possible.

The committee also created a CRP task force to study modifications to the current Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). CRP is expected to be revisited in the 2018 Farm Bill, and producers are concerned that the current program puts cattlemen at a disadvantage.

Funding for rural roads and bridges was also discussed, along with taxation of government owned land.

Cattle Production Committee:

Cattle markets are a continuing topic for the cattle production committee. The committee reviewed interim policy from the summer, including a policy that supported dividing USDA’s negotiated trade reports into 0-14 and 15-30 day delivery periods, in order to give cattle producers more detailed information on trades that have occurred. That policy was carried forward to the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association’s summer policy conference, adopted by NCBA, and led USDA to make the requested changes.

Other market related policies included support for increased funding for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which provides oversight of the cattle futures markets, and support for the current daily price limits for Live Cattle and Feeder Cattle futures. Both of these policies are intended to reduce volatility in the market and manage risk for cattle producers.

The committee also tackled the issues of trichomoniasis in Iowa. A task force has been created to study ways to decrease the impact trichomoniasis has on Iowa’s cattle industry, and policy was passed to support increased testing for the sexually transmitted disease.

ICA Annual Meeting:

On Friday morning, ICA members ratified the new and amended policies at the annual meeting. Outgoing president Mike Cline of Elgin also turned over the leadership of the association to David Trowbridge from Tabor, IA, who will serve as president of ICA for two years.

New and amended ICA policy will be added to the 2018 policy book.

CattleFax Webinar Outlines 2018 Market Expectations

Where do we go from here? With the magnitude of the breaks and rallies experienced across the entire cattle industry thus far, that question is on everyone’s mind. An upcoming free CattleFax webinar will address that question as well as provide an outlook for the cow-calf sector and entire beef industry for 2018.

The CattleFax Trends+ Cow-Calf Webinar will be at 6:30 p.m. CST, Jan. 24, 2018. To participate in the webinar and access program details, producers and industry leaders simply need to register online at!/about.   

One of the most aggressive U.S. beef cowherd expansions in the last four decades has increased beef supplies and caused cow-calf profitability to be reduced back towards long term levels. As profits have narrowed, well-informed producers can maintain healthy margins by adjusting production, marketing and risk management plans with increasing supplies in mind.

CattleFax analysts will discuss a variety of topics in the one-hour session, including:
-    Cattle and feedstuff market projections for the next 12 to 18 months
-    Supply expectations for the cattle and beef industry as well as competing meats
-    Review and outlook of bred cow and heifer values   

The Trends+ webinar series informs cattle producers about current market conditions and provides decision-friendly advice regarding management decisions. The analysis and strategies shared through the webinar series have reached more than 5,000 producers, and sponsorship from Elanco Animal Health is making the seminar free for all attendees.

Commodity Organizations Support Science-Based Trade Regulations at WTO Ministerial

U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) and members of the U.S. Grains Council (USGC), U.S. Soybean Export Council (USSEC), USA Rice, the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA), the National Sorghum Producers (NSP) and the National Barley Growers Association (NBGA) welcomed a joint statement issued this week from 17 countries participating in the 11th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Buenos Aires, Argentina, emphasizing the importance of supporting farmer access to the full range of tools and technologies available and opposing regulatory barriers lacking sufficient scientific justification.

“Having in mind the importance of transparency and predictability to international trade, we call on all Members to strengthen the implementation of the WTO SPS [Sanitary and Phytosanitary] Agreement by reinforcing the work of relevant international standards organizations and ensuring the scientific basis of SPS measures is sound,” the statement reads.

“The development and application of sound SPS measures is needed to support farmers' choice in tools that can expand agricultural production and facilitate access to food and agricultural products, and also to safeguard human, animal and plant health.”

Government officials from Kenya, Uganda, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Chile, Canada, Colombia, Argentina, and the United States delivered remarks in favor of the joint statement of understanding on Dec. 12, 2017, during a side event to the main WTO meetings.

Representatives from the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation in Agriculture (IICA), the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the Brazilian Confederation of Agriculture and Livestock (CNA), the International Soy Growers Alliance and MAIZALL, an international maize alliance, also provided supporting comments.

The statement demonstrates global support for all farmers and the tools and innovations they need to protect their crops from devastating diseases and destructive pests while delivering safe food sustainably to the world's consumers. The signatories take a step forward in calling out countries that undermine farmer choice through regulatory barriers that are not scientifically justified.

Recognizing the "central importance of risk analysis to assess, manage and communicate risks of concern associated with pesticide use in order to protect public health while enabling the safe use of pesticides and facilitate trade in food and ag products," these countries remained committed to expanding knowledge and capacity for developing countries in pesticide maximum residue levels (MRLs). Ultimately, common understanding will help facilitate bilateral and multilateral efforts to assess and manage risk concerns in a more scientific, transparent and harmonized manner.

Corn Harvest And DDGS Roadshow Garners Record Attendance In Southeast Asia

More than 350 people attended a recent roadshow in Southeast Asia highlighting new-crop U.S. corn and U.S. distiller’s dried grains with solubles (DDGS) and offering a sneak-peak at information from the U.S. Grains Council’s (USGC’s) forthcoming report on corn harvest quality.

The Council conducted the seminars in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam in late November and early December with the goal of demonstrating the transparency of the U.S. marketing system.

“Our willingness to share data, even in tough market conditions, and provide good information about the long-term U.S. production capacity is important to building strong relationships with our global buyers, especially in my region,” said Manuel Sanchez, USGC regional director in South and Southeast Asia.

The annual report, known formally as the U.S. Corn Harvest Quality Report, provides information on the initial quality of U.S. corn as the commodity enters merchandising channels and is assembled for export. The quality of new-crop corn as a primary feedstock also offers an early indicator of the quality of DDGS produced as a by-product of U.S. ethanol.

The seminar series offered a preview of the report’s results, which will be released in the coming weeks; an overview of the DDGS market; and information about the feed ingredients’ nutritional values for different animal species. A Vietnamese government decision in September to allow imports of U.S. DDGS to resume upon resolution of plant pest concerns spurred additional interest and attendance at the events.

“The United States has a well-earned reputation as the most open trading partner in the world,” Sanchez said. “This type of mission allows us to connect with the main commodity buyers in the region and gives us the platform to answer their questions and position U.S. exports for a strong rebound into this growing region.”

The U.S. Corn Harvest Quality Report will be followed in the spring with an updated version of the U.S. Corn Export Cargo Quality Report, which will provide objective information on quality at the point of export. Both of these reports and efforts to share their results with global buyers are central to the Council’s commitment to serving as a trusted source of information on U.S. production and marketing.

“The availability of accurate, consistent and comparable information is in the long-term interests of all concerned with the global corn market,” Sanchez said. “While price is an important consideration for buyers, the U.S. reputation for reliability and honesty is also a marketable asset.”

USDA Announces New IT Operating Model

U.S. Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Steve Censky announced today the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will revamp its Information Technology (IT) operating model to increase efficiency in serving its customers.

“When I was sworn in, Secretary Perdue charged me to help him make USDA the most effective, most efficient, most customer-focused department in the entire federal government,” Deputy Secretary Censky said. “One way to do that is by instituting a new operating model for IT. We have no choice but to modernize – we cannot continue to conduct business for the next 150 years based on splintered and out-of-date operating models.”

Gary Washington, USDA’s Acting Chief Information Officer, added, “We know that our ability to effectively manage and modernize information technology systems will be a key success factor in USDA achieving the Secretary’s vision for a more customer-focused organization. We are excited with our plan to harness technology that will enable informed decision-making and improve the experiences customers have when interacting with USDA, whether they are working with us online or sitting across the table. The opportunities available for IT to benefit USDA’s customers today are significant and far-reaching.”

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue has been actively working to position USDA as the best-managed agency in the Federal government. The USDA touches each American citizen every day through its work with America’s farmers, ranchers, national forest users, rural communities, consumers, trade partners, agricultural industry, scientific researchers, and the public. To best serve customers, USDA is becoming a data-driven organization that can provide timely and accurate information at the fingertips of customers and employees.

In order to ensure a smooth transition, USDA will work with the White House Office of American Innovation to execute a series of key strategies:
-    Strengthen strategic IT governance by having a single USDA Chief Information Officer (CIO) and one Assistant CIO for each mission area, who will focus on improving IT for their mission specific services and programs. This will reduce the number of CIOs within USDA from 22 down to one, with seven assistant CIOs.
-    Consolidate end-user services and data centers from 39 USDA data centers to a single data center and a back-up. This move will provide a cost-effective, high quality department-wide helpdesk and reduce cybersecurity vulnerabilities.
-    Enable a strategic approach to data management and introduce data-driven capabilities by implementing executive dashboard solutions with USDA-wide data.
-    Improve the USDA customer experience by delivering all new Farm Bill programs online and creating online service portals that are easy-to-use, include additional self-service capabilities, and integrate data for common customers.

Updating the critical IT operating model enables USDA to make effective strategic decisions, improve customer experience, become increasingly more data-driven and adopt new technologies, all without a reduction to the workforce.

No comments:

Post a Comment