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How an algorithm kicks small businesses out of the food stamps program on dubious fraud charges
> Last year, the USDA disqualified more than 1,600 retailers across the country from receiving SNAP payments. Over 90 percent of those businesses are convenience stores or small groceries.

> It’s impossible to pin down exactly how many retailers were banned from accepting SNAP dollars due to fraud charges that the government can’t actually prove. But court testimony by a USDA official indicates that, just last year, hundreds of retailers were permanently disqualified from the program based primarily on an algorithmic assessment of their transaction patterns

> The USDA does not bother to justify or even explain the precise sales figures or thresholds that cause retailers to be flagged for investigation. In fact, officials appear not to know how they were developed in the first place.

new system was connected to roll out of EBT cards -- easier to electronically monitor every transaction. little understanding from those relying on the algorithmic assessments of how they work. supporters of the tool say it's one data point to help identify fraud, but in practice people are relying on it without skepticism. minimal opportunities for those affected to challenge the verdicts, no opportunities to view evidence against them, they are required to "prove" their innocence. those using the tool are unaware of how it works or what flags it uses to identify fraud.
algorithmic-bias  bias  snap  food-stamps  usda 
12 weeks ago by tarakc02
‘This guy doesn’t know anything’: the inside story of Trump’s shambolic transition team | News | The Guardian
The place had an annual budget of $164bn and was charged with so many missions critical to the society that the people who worked there played a drinking game called Does the Department of Agriculture Do It?
usda  trump  government 
september 2018 by yorksranter
jobs were the buzz at at last night. Check out ’s story on how St. Louis is p…
USDA  VenCafe  from twitter_favs
august 2018 by electroponix
How America Uses Its Land
There are many statistical measures that show how productive the U.S. is. Its economy is the largest in the world and grew at a rate of 4.1 percent last quarter, its fastest pace since 2014. The unemployment rate is near the lowest mark in a half century.

What can be harder to decipher is how Americans use their land to create wealth. The 48 contiguous states alone are a 1.9 billion-acre jigsaw puzzle of cities, farms, forests and pastures that Americans use to feed themselves, power their economy and extract value for business and pleasure.
Using surveys, satellite images and categorizations from various government agencies, the U.S. Department of Agriculture divides the U.S. into six major types of land. The data can’t be pinpointed to a city block—each square on the map represents 250,000 acres of land. But piecing the data together state-by-state can give a general sense of how U.S. land is used.
Gathered together, cropland would take up more than a fifth of the 48 contiguous states. Pasture and rangeland would cover most of the Western U.S., and all of the country’s cities and towns would fit neatly in the Northeast.
Even though urban areas make up just 3.6 percent of the total size of the 48 contiguous states, four in five Americans live, work and play there. With so much of the U.S. population in urban areas, it’s little surprise that these areas contribute an outsize amount to the economy. The 10 most productive metropolitan areas alone contributed to about 40 percent of U.S. GDP in 2016.
The U.S. is becoming more urban—at an average rate of about 1 million additional acres a year. That’s the equivalent of adding new urban area the size of Los Angeles, Houston and Phoenix combined. U.S. urban areas have more than quadrupled since 1945.
The USDA categorizes national parks, wildlife areas, highways, railroads and military bases as special-use areas. And another USDA land classification—miscellaneous—includes cemeteries, golf courses, marshes, deserts and other areas of “low economic value.”
More than 100 million acres of special-use areas are park and wilderness areas, where most commercial activities, such as logging, mining and grazing, are excluded.
Agricultural land takes up about a fifth of the country.
Yet the actual land area used to grow the food Americans eat is much smaller—only about the size of Indiana, Illinois and half of Iowa combined. More than a third of the entire corn crop is devoted to ethanol production. Most cropland is used for livestock feed, exports or is left idle to let the land recover.
While the U.S. benefits from an overall agricultural trade surplus, Americans imported 15 percent of their food and beverage products in 2016. More than 30 percent of the fresh fruits and vegetables Americans consume come from other countries, predominantly Mexico and Canada. The amount of U.S. land used to produce citrus fruits alone is larger than Rhode Island.
More than one-third of U.S. land is used for pasture—by far the largest land-use type in the contiguous 48 states. And nearly 25 percent of that land is administered by the federal government, with most occurring in the West. That land is open to grazing for a fee.
There’s a single, major occupant on all this land: cows. Between pastures and cropland used to produce feed, 41 percent of U.S. land in the contiguous states revolves around livestock.
Forestland is the last major category of land categorized by the USDA. Unprotected forests and timberland constitute a quarter of the contiguous U.S.
According to the U.S. Forest Service, timber harvests typically occur on about 11 million acres each year. But because of regrowth, the volume of U.S. timber stock grew by about 1 percent annually from 2007 to 2012. Weyerhaeuser Co. is the largest private owner of timberlands in the U.S. With 12.4 million acres, the company controls 2.3 percent of all commercially available timber, an area nearly the size of West Virginia.
On a percentage basis, urban creep outpaces growth in all other land-use categories. Another growth area: land owned by wealthy families. According to The Land Report magazine, since 2008 the amount of land owned by the 100 largest private landowners has grown from 28 million acres to 40 million, an area larger than the state of Florida.
US  Maps  Agriculture  Housing  Farming  Parks  Forests  Cities  USDA 
august 2018 by dbourn
USDA Forest Service: DATIM
Design and Analysis Toolkit for Inventory and Monitoring
usda  forest  software  analysis 
july 2018 by sushidub
NPR: The USDA Rolled Back Protections For Small Farmers. Now The Farmers Are Suing
#regulationisprotection Say goodbye to people like you and me being fed to BigMeat. We are next.
government  protecting  farming  regulation  USDA  MegaMeat 
may 2018 by bdwc
Specialty Crops Terminal Markets Standard Reports | Agricultural Marketing Service
Wholesale Market Reports

Prices for which specialty crops were sold at selected U.S. cities’ terminal markets. Prices are differentiated by the commodities’ growing origin, variety, size, package and grade.

smell a great twitter bot in here
data  usda  produce 
april 2018 by madamim
More Details >> Secretary Perdue Issues USDA Statement on Plant Breeding Innovation
Hrm, so plant GMO means bringing in genes from unrelated organisms. But CRISPR editing of plant genomes for point changes/deletions, bulk changes that could/were achieved via traditional plant breeding (but difficult to expand/commercialize conventionally), and importing genes from related (how related?) species doesn't count as GMO, thus no labeling requirement. FDA still says any artificial gene modification to animals counts as GMO, and the animals get regulated as "animal drug"?
USA  USDA  FDA  EPA  GMO  CRISPR  genetically  modified  organism  plant  gene  editing  labeling 
april 2018 by asteroza

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