USDA launches Open Government program to make information more accessible

By Jon H. Harsch

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

Washington, April 8 – Along with the rest of the federal government, the Department of Agriculture has released its “Open Government Plan” designed to give the public more understanding of USDA activities and more opportunity to influence those activities.

“We owe the American people an open and transparent government but to make the government as effective as possible in completing the people’s business, we need our citizens to participate and collaborate with us. This is an unprecedented effort to open the government and work with the people it serves,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack explained in launching the plan. “At USDA, we used a ground-up approach seeking guidance from our employees and the public as to how to best achieve the Open Gov goals.”

USDA notes that the plan is aimed at “breaking down barriers between government and the public leading to a more efficient and effective government.” The plan is focused on:

  • “Transparency - Each of the Department’s goals provides a different aspect of transparency to the public, and as a whole, the goals move USDA towards doing its work in an open and transparent manner. Providing greater accessibility to data and current information gives the public a better understanding of USDA as an organization. Greater transparency also provides the public with the tools and information it needs to provide the Department with valuable feedback and suggestions.”
  • “Participation - Through public participation, the Department becomes more aware of what issues most interest the American public. As a part of open government, the Department will increase opportunities for the public to contribute ideas and expertise in shaping the policies and services USDA provides.”
  • “Collaboration - Effective collaboration enables us to harness the innovative ideas and know-how of the private and public sectors. The Department will improve upon existing partnerships and establish new sustainable collaborative ones that will foster an enhanced shared understanding of our mission.”

The plan will be updated regularly to reflect the current needs and priorities of the Department and the public. To review the plan or share comments, questions or ideas, visit the USDA Open Website at

The Energy Department has also been active in implementing the White House’s Open Government directive. Go to to access a wealth of information including a listing of resources and federal and state funding for biomass projects.

For links to all 29 federal departments and agencies now operating with new Open Government plans, go to: The links lead to the Open Government plans at 15 departments: Agriculture, Energy, Education, Commerce, Defense, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, the Interior, Justice, Labor, State, Transportation, Treasury, and Veterans Affairs; and 14 agencies: Agency for International Development, Environmental Protection Agency, General Services Administration, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, National Science Foundation, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Office of Personnel Management, Small Business Administration, Social Security Administration, Council on Environmental Quality, Office of Management and Budget, Office of National Drug Control Policy, Office of Science and Technology Policy, and Office of the United States Trade Representative.

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