A new Department of Agriculture service will serve as a “front door” that aims to transform “how the public interacts with USDA.”

According to a release, the new AskUSDA system will include phone, chat, and web inquiry services and will serve as a centralized contact center for the department’s 29 agencies and offices.

“Prior to the creation and implementation of AskUSDA, members of the public had to navigate dozens of phone numbers and had no chat function or online platform for self-service, creating frustrations and inefficiencies,” USDA noted in a release. “AskUSDA was created to make USDA more responsive to the public by providing a single destination for phone, chat, and web inquiries.”

Streamlining IT services has long been a goal of the department, including working through the various applications producers might fill out for programs through the Farm Service Agency or Natural Resources Conservation Service. Some online application abilities have been added to the farmers.gov webpage, including the ability to apply for the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program.

According to the department, a pilot of AskUSDA received more than 93,000 citizen inquiries and more than 1.4 million USDA article page views.

The public can contact AskUSDA by phone at (833) ONE-USDA with representatives available 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m. EST weekdays. The website (https://ask.usda.gov/) is available 24/7 and includes live chat agents available 10 a.m.-6 p.m. EST on weekdays. Inquiries can also be sent via email at any time to askusda@usda.gov.

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