AskUSDA Launched and Second-ever USDA Food Marketing Survey
**To help farmers optimize water use, University of California researchers will test robots to collect leaf samples.
The leaf samples help farmers determine when to irrigate their crops, but UC says the process can be time-consuming.
Researchers received a grant to automate the sampling, which could provide farmers with more and faster information on crop water needs.
They hope to have the first prototypes built by spring.
**The USDA has launched the AskUSDA Contact Center program, that will serve as the “one front door” for phone, chat, and web inquires, transforming how the public interacts with USDA and providing an enhanced experience for the public.
Before the creation of AskUSDA, callers had to navigate dozens of phone numbers and had no chat function or online platform for self-service, creating frustrations and inefficiencies.
AskUSDA was created to make USDA more responsive.
**After initial research in 2015, the USDA will begin the agency’s second-ever Local Food Marketing Practices Survey this month.
The Census of Agriculture special study will look at local and regional food systems and provide NEW data on how locally grown foods in the U.S. are marketed and sold.
NASS administrator, Hubert Hamer tells thepacker.com, he’s excited to provide the first official federal data on marketing practices since 2015 and a five-year comparison point to inform policies and business.
The results will be available next November.