FAQ: USDA has a new mobile website to access FSA farm program information using a smartphone. Also, there's a new online FSA news service, GovDelivery. How can these help me?
Answer: USDA recently announced a package of technology enhancements that are now available from the Farm Service Agency. They include Web access for handheld and smartphone users, as well as a more efficient and timely option for receiving news and critical program information.
Beth Grabau, public relations specialist for the state FSA office in Des Moines, says the technology improvements will allow users of agency information to gain access to easy-to-read data including key features such as loan deficiency payments (LDP) rates, posted county prices (PCP), news releases and AskFSA, the agency's online self-help knowledge base.
The recent announcement introducing the new FSA mobile website app and the new FSA electronic news service underscores USDA's Blueprint for Stronger Service, a plan introduced in January by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. The plan, he says, takes a realistic view of the needs of American agriculture in a challenging budget climate. It lays out plans to modernize and speed up service delivery while improving the USDA customers' experience through use of innovative technologies and business solutions. Three of the 27 initial recommendations implemented by USDA focus on information technology while other process improvements already put into place by FSA have strengthened the agency's electronic customer service and online presence.
Easier to read website FSA website makes it handier to use for mobile app
Like all websites, FSA's is accessible through any device that connects to the Internet. The mobile site organizes information on the website in a way to make for easy reading on a small, handheld screen. It doesn't require screen adjustments or constant scrolling and panning across the information.
A 2011 study conducted by Pew Research Center indicated mobile Internet access is growing rapidly. From May 2010 to July 2011, the number of adults with mobile applications jumped from 43% to 50%. The trend will continue. In addition, USDA's Economic Research Service found 57% of all rural households use broadband Internet at home but 6% of all rural households (or over 1 million rural households) access the Internet at home solely through wireless broadband services. The new FSA site makes the information available to those households.
In addition to the mobile website, FSA now offers farmers and ranchers a more efficient and timely option for receiving farm program information. Such things as eligibility requirements, deadlines and related information can be accessed through an electronic news service hosted by GovDelivery.
Free online communications via new electronic news service
By signing up for free online communications through GovDelivery farmers and ranchers get news, via email, directly to their home or farm office or to their mobile devices – allowing them to receive immediate notification of farm program news that is pertinent to their farm operation.
Through GovDelivery, farmers can establish subscriber preferences by choosing to receive federal farm program and farm loan information by topic, by state and/or by county. Producers can also select as many subscriber options as they want, which allows producers in multiple counties or across state lines to receive updates from each county in which they operation or have an interest. The agency also offers AskFSA and Ask- FSAmobile, an easy-to-use knowledge database with automated answers to website visitor questions. In 2011, AskFSA received 351,119 visitors, 99.7% of whom found their answer online without the need for additional assistance.
To access FSA's mobile website visit www.fsa.usda.gov/mobile. To sign up for FSA's GovDelivery electronic news service, visit www.fsa.usda.gov/subscribe. For info on USDA's Blueprint for Stronger Service, visit www.usda.gov/strongerservice.