|By KEVIN WALKER
LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Field Office of the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) recently revamped its website as part of a national effort to make the service more identifiable and understandable to its customers, which include farmers, researchers, teachers, journalists and others.
“We’re trying to establish that every one of these offices is part of the NASS,” said Vincent Matthews, deputy director of the NASS-Michigan Field Office.
“The revamped website makes it easier for the farmers, provides them just one agency that’s collecting data from them,” Matthews said.
In addition, each state’s website is designed to look more like the USDA national website.
Matthews also said the agency is trying to get away from calling itself the Michigan Agricultural Statistics Service (MASS) as part of its effort to create a more unified identity.
The Michigan Department of Agriculture (MDA) describes the statistics service as “a part of the Executive Division within the Michigan Department of Agriculture,” which makes it sound like it’s part of that department; but Matthews says the statistics service works cooperatively with the MDA in order to avoid duplication of services, nothing more.
There are also a couple of MDA employees that work at the NASS-Michigan Field Office.
Some of the website’s new features include a Google-powered search engine and an SVG interactive statistical map.
The map application allows the user to go to any state and find information on a particular county, just by using the pointer.
The data behind the map is from the census of agriculture, which is conducted every five years.
Although the information available off the map is limited, about 200 census items can be displayed.
Use of the map requires the SVG Viewer from Adobe, which is free to download.
The NASS-Michigan Field Office publishes a lot of statistics every month about agriculture in Michigan. Just last month, for example, the service published summaries of fruit and vegetable production for all of 2005, as well as monthly statistics on other commodities. Reports and summaries are published online just minutes after their release.
To have a look at the new website, go to www.nass.usda.gov/mi