Wednesday, May 9, 2012

USDA and Disasters

As has been mentioned previously on these pages, agriculture is an often overlooked community when it comes to emergency preparedness and response. That's ironic, since the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), like many of its state counterparts, has made substantial investment and developed significant capabilities so that it can respond to disasters in the rural areas that make up the majority of the United States' territory.  Furthermore, a significant part of these efforts have a geospatial component.  Here are a few:

CropScape (graphic above) - The crop land data layer for the United States. When matched against recorded NOAA weather track data, this data can be used to create preliminary crop damage assessments after events like hail storms, tornadoes, drought, and other weather events.  To read an abstract on the system, click here.  To give the application a try, click the link below:

National Agriculture Imagery Program (NAIP) - Although its original intended use was support of the USDA's Common Land Unit program, NAIP imagery has become the defacto U.S. standard for rural imagery.  It is now used in everything from various commercial online viewers, to serving as the base imagery  for the U.S. Geological Survey's  US Topo - a product specifically designed to support emergency response operations through incorporation of the U.S. National Grid.  To learn more, click here. Or, to access imagery, use one of the links below: 

Farm Service Agency's Aerial Photography Field Office (APFO) - Many USDA imagery products are available to both public and private entities for emergency response planning through the APFO.  Information on how to obtain this imagery can be found by using the link below:

If you would like to find out more about USDA's geospatial and emergency response efforts, there's plenty that can be learned by exploring USDA's extensive web resources, starting at the links below:

Comment: It's really easy to see pictures of the aftermath of Katrina, Fukushima, Haiti, Joplin, Missouri, and mentally associate disasters with urban areas as a result. However, whether it is the intentional breaching of a dike to save a city downstream, a severe drought, or a disease like hoof and mouth, reality is disasters can visit with equal wrath in the countryside.  A point which has clearly brought geospatial into the mix for response efforts in America's rural communities.   

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