USDA unveils agriculture open data community, G8 data sharing

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The Agriculture Department April 30 announced the creation of a food, agriculture and rural data community on data.gov. The data.gov micro site will serve as a central resource for data sets, apps, developer tools and collaboration, said Catherine Woteki, USDA's chief scientist, during an April 30 press call. There are 350 data sets currently available on the site, she said.

Delivering her remarks from the G8 Open Data Conference, Woteki also announced an action plan to further USDA open data efforts beyond the United States.

"The G8 countries announced that we have put out into the public plans for how we're going to continue making our research data and other statistical data that we collect available so that applications, new uses can be made of this data," said Woteki.

The plan includes objectives such as a collaboration with USAID's Feed the Future program to "provide capacity building support for development and improvement of national agricultural and rural statistic." It also includes appendices listing relevant data.gov metadata for food, agriculture and rural data, and agriculturally-relevant data categories.

The meeting of G8 countries spanned technical discussions on how to use the data to conversations on data needs in developing countries, she said. Applications based on open data will bring about "a dramatic increase in agricultural productivity," Woteki added.

"We also expect that by sharing this information, and also because we've got access now to climate models and satellite systems that help in predictive modeling, that we'll be able to do a much better job of anticipating climate change and its effects on agriculture--and building climate-resistant agricultural systems around the world," said Woteki.

Data released by the USDA includes genomic data on livestock and plants, and all agricultural statistics data, such as data on crop production. Other G8 countries are opening their data through portals similar to the U.S.'s data.gov and have committed to work together to make global agriculture data "more user-friendly and what we call 'interoperable,'" said Woteki.

Despite the announcement's focus on openness the U.S. action plan was surprisingly hard to find--initially released as a closed Google Doc on the G8 conference site. The plan is now publicly available as a three-part .pdf on the conference site.

Woteki did not answer questions about how the initiative relates to the department's open government plan or if the G8 effort is at all associated with a larger, international effort known as the Open Government Partnership.

For more:
- visit Data.gov's food, agriculture and rural community
- download the U.S. action plan

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