USDA: Harvesting Innovation
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) provides leadership on food, agriculture, natural resources, rural development, nutrition, and related issues based on public policy, the best available science, and effective management. Through their work, the USDA aims to provide economic opportunity through innovation, by helping rural America to thrive, by nourishing Americans and others throughout the world all while preserving our Nation’s natural resources. It’s a wide reaching mission that the department sums up in their core mission areas:
- Farm Production and Conservation
- Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services
- Food Safety
- Marketing and Regulatory Programs
- Natural Resources and Environment
- Research, Education, and Economics
- Rural Development
- Trade and Foriegn Agricultural Affair
The USDA may oversee one of the oldest American activities, but that does not mean they are traditional in the way they support their constituents. Farmers.gov has been heralded as an early success in customer-friendly government service. The site provides a single point of contact for any aid or services provided to U.S. farmers. Its launch and success over the last several years showed how large departments can bring together siloed services to give citizens better visibility into how the government can support them. This effort was ahead of its time launching before the current President’s Management Agenda Customer Service goal and CX executive orders. The Department continues to innovate in line with Biden Administration goals.
Build Back Better
The USDA is focused on improving the U.S. food supply chain. Its Food System Transformation framework was introduced in June 2022 and included goals to:
- Build a more resilient food supply chain that provides more and better market options for consumers and producers while reducing carbon pollution
- Create a fairer food system that combats market dominance and helps producers and consumers gain more power in the marketplace by creating new, more and better local market options
- Make nutritious food more accessible and affordable for consumers
- Emphasize equity
The Department is looking to make changes across the food supply continuum from production to processing to distribution.
As part of the effort to shore up the supply chain, USDA is focused on the end-consumer to ensure that everyone in the United States has access to healthy food options. One program getting special attention is the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). This long running program to ensure childhood nutritional needs are met is chronically underused with only 57% of those eligible participating. One way to increase participation is to make it easier to use. USDA is looking to allow online shopping using WIC benefits. Today, WIC transactions need to be authenticated either by a signature on a check or entering a pin for an electronic benefits transfer card in front of a cashier. There have been pilots testing digital use of benefits and the USDA is looking to expand on the successes there.
Another key area being improved to ensure equity is disaster aid. USDA is one of a handful of agencies working together to simplify aid processes. This includes the introduction of a bill that would require key agencies to establish a single, universal application on disasterassistance.gov for victims in need of federal assistance in the wake of disasters including hurricanes, floods and wildfires.
As part of an effort to improve the Nation’s cybersecurity, Zero Trust is becoming the defacto standard for agencies as they modernize systems and access to those systems. Much like USDA was an early adopter of cloud technologies, they are on the forefront of moving to Zero Trust. USDA was awarded Technology Modernization Funding (TMF) to improve threat monitoring, detection and response capabilities to better secure shared services and sensitive data.
- Modern Application Security in a Zero Trust Approach (white paper) – In a recent roundtable discussion hosted by the Advanced Technology Academic Research Center (ATARC), IT leaders from various Federal agencies discussed the challenges that come with updating legacy systems and some of the factors holding their teams back from modernizing web application security.
- Building a Data Driven Government with AI (white paper) – Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and High-Performance Computing are helping agencies make improved decisions to improve quality of life and ensure our nation’s security.
- Economic Crises and U.S. Agricultural Exports (white paper) – This report examines the effects of economic crises within countries on their agricultural imports, in particular from the United States. Such crises typically have broad macroeconomic consequences, including a contraction in economic output and household income and depreciation of the country’s currency. These effects can reduce the country’s imports.
- Harnessing the Power of Cloud (white paper) – This paper discusses how cloud-based solutions have improved productivity and citizen engagement from the State of Oregon to Teaneck, New Jersey.
- Government CIO Playbook (white paper) – Urgent needs, new funding, and higher expectations create a perfect opportunity for government innovation. Find out how CIOs are making progress today.
- ATARC Cybersecurity Executive Order Breakfast Summit (November 8, 2022; Washington, DC) – Topic experts will discuss the importance of how organizations should be proceeding with the requirements of the Cybersecurity Executive Order and how the workforce has been affected by it.
- CX Summit 2022 (November 15, 2022; Washington, DC) – Over the past year, the Biden-Harris Administration has increased the focus on improving federal services through the President’s Management Agenda which presented a roadmap for ensuring an equitable, effective, and accountable Federal Government that delivers results for all. Attendees will learn how customer experience business strategies and practices can lead to improved equity for government.
You can search for more information critical to USDA’s evolution including zero trust, digital government, equity, and more.