USDA site to customize services for farmers, ranchers

The Agriculture Department has redesigned its Web site to improve access to agency information. It’s the first of several initiatives to provide more e-government services to farmers, ranchers and the general public.

“The computer has already taken its place next to the plowshare and tractor as indispensable to farmers,” Agriculture secretary Ann Veneman said yesterday.

The department in August will launch a customizable version of the www.usda.gov home page so users can adapt the site to their needs.

The site will soon feature a customer statement that will make a range of USDA services and programs available in a single report. For instance, farmers would be able to view their contracts in various conservation programs, payments under commodity programs and information on loans and crop insurance.

Farmers and ranchers will be able to cross-reference that data with interactive maps of their operations using geographic information systems technology with overlays for roads, soil types, water and other geographic features.

“Instead of traveling to a county office, farmers and ranchers will be able to log on from a computer to apply for loan deficiency payments over the Internet,” Veneman said.

The goal is to provide integrated service around customer needs. For example, USDA is preparing a new Commodity Market Information System, which brings together many sources of commodity information from Agriculture’s agencies. CMIS will contain up-to-date and searchable data and provide access to the more than 3,000 commodity-related reports USDA produces each year.

To support the new programs, USDA will upgrade its systems by:

  • Adding high-speed networks nationwide to increase data capacity


  • Creating a Web authentication system so customers can access information and submit forms securely


  • Improving e-mail service for USDA employees


  • Developing a content management system to improve the ability to update Web sites


  • Launching a tracking system to improve management of civil-rights cases and data.

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