USDA hosts fall data users' meeting

By Ashley Rice

USDA recently held a second Data Users’ Meeting for the year in Washington, D.C., at the urging of the American Farm Bureau Federation.

The meeting was organized by the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) in cooperation with six other related agencies.

The respective agencies discussed what kinds of data they collect, as well as how they manage it, analyze it and disseminate the results. Data samples can range from individual producers to international exports. This wide variety of data requires routine collaboration amongst the agencies.  

“Each (agency) is valuable on their own, but when they can work together to put out reports, it just makes everything a lot better. It was very clear to me that they were doing that,” Lyndsey Ramsey, IFB director of strategic engagement, told FarmWeek.

The agencies emphasized their willingness to answer questions and accept constructive criticism about their data from individuals and organizations.

NASS and accompanying agencies are continually trying to make data more user friendly and accessible through reports, interactive maps and even social media.

Lance Honig, NASS chief of crops branch, started “Stat Chat” on Twitter. Every month, individuals can ask questions using “#statchat” and get answers directly from Honig.

Privacy is a huge component of data collection, and the USDA works to keep all data and reports anonymous. Ramsey noted the agencies stressed the importance of protecting farmer data. For example, specific farmer-reported data will not be reported if a variable is too easily identifiable to an individual producer or operation.

Ramsey discussed her overall takeaways from the meeting. “There are so many reports that come out of USDA. I think what I learned overall is how much each agency respects the data they collect. They understand data very well. They know its limitations. They know statistics. They know proper surveying methods. They’re very upfront about what they know and what they don’t know,” she noted.

To view proceedings from USDA data user’s meeting dating back to 2005, visit USDA Education and Outreach.

Content for this story was provided by FarmWeekNow.com.

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