Agriculture IT funding OK'd

Congress approved a fiscal 2002 spending bill for the Agriculture Department last week that will keep money flowing to the USDA's common computing environment and other information technology programs.

Lawmakers gave the green light to the USDA to acquire a common computing environment (CCE) for the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services and Rural Development mission areas for IT.

President Bush is expected to sign the legislation that provides funding for the USDA and other agencies.

The legislation earmarked $59 million for the CCE plan that would create a platform to support telecommunications, automation and administrative applications across USDA agencies.

It provided $5.4 million to expand the cross-servicing activities of the National Finance Center in New Orleans, which is run by the USDA and handles the electronic payroll for 125 federal agencies.

In addition, the spending bill also made available $100,000 to the state of New York for a pilot program to provide wireless equipment and services for electronic food stamp transactions at farmers' markets.

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