The House Agriculture Subcommittee on Department Operations, Oversight and Forestry met to review USDA's information technology systems Wednesday. USDA's Chief Information Officer Chris Smith and Farm Service Agency Administrator Jonathan Coppess testified before the subcommittee, as did representatives from ag organizations interested in improving the IT systems at USDA.
Subcommittee Chair Joe Baca, D-Calif., says efficient and cost-effective information technology programs at USDA are critical to the successful delivery of thousands of nutrition and farm programs. He says the hearing provided an excellent opportunity to understand the scope of technological problems at the Department, and collaborate on the important steps that must be taken to resolve them.
According to Ranking Member Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., technology is advancing at a dizzying rate and to serve agricultural producers more efficiently USDA must integrate technological advancements into its existing infrastructure. He says it's important to ensure necessary reforms provide a reliable, secure system so that all stakeholders can have confidence in the delivery of our farm bill programs in a timely manner.
National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson told the House Ag Subcommittee that American farmers are being asked to produce more food, fiber and fuel with greater precision and efficiency, and they are answering the call by investing in new technological systems. He says it's only logical that USDA would do the same.
The USDA Farm Service Agency computer system remains unstable which has resulted in service disruption to producers. The Appropriations Committee has been in search of a means to pay for the necessary upgrades for several years, yet is still unable to guarantee the funding will be available at the end of the appropriations process.