Funding to help farm agency go digital

The Agriculture Department has received an extra $38 million to help modernize

systems at the Farm Service Agency to accommodate electronic business and

electronic filing.

The money was part of an emergency supplemental spending bill signed into

law by President Clinton last month.

The funds will be used to replace an FSA system that uses the Cobol computer

language and could not interact with other computer systems. "It was like

Latin; nobody speaks it anymore," said Bill Gardner, senior policy adviser

for USDA's chief information officer.

USDA also received $5.4 million to invest in moving to geographical information

systems — transforming a paper-based map system to the digital form, Gardner

said.

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