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UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
FOREIGN AGRICULTURAL SERVICE
WASHINGTON, D. C. 20200
JAN 3 1 1978
Mr. Olin E. Teague, Chairman
Dear Mr. Teague:
This is in further response to your December 19, 1977, letter in
We appreciate the opportunity to present our thoughts on future space programs as they relate to the Foreign Agricultural Service. Mr. Howard W. Hjort, Director of Economics, policy Analysis and Budget, has overall responsibility for Remote Sensing Policy coordination for the Department of Agriculture. If the Committee wishes additional information concerning the total Department of Agriculture remote sensing activities, plans or policy, Mr. Hjort should be contacted in the future.
Thomas R. Hughes
Written Statement of Thomas Hughes Administrator, Foreign Agricultural Service to House Committee on Science and Technology
FAS Programs and Information Requirements
As the primary program and policy support arm of the U.S. Department of
Agriculture in international affairs, the Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS)
has a special interest in utilizing space-acquired data. FAS's mission is
to help develop and expand foreign markets for U.S. agricultural products;
to provide representation for the Secretary of Agriculture and the U.S. farm community in foreign countries and international forums; and to assist in
formulation and execution of u.s. agricultural and foreign policies.
To accomplish this mission, accurate and timely information regarding world agricultural production and trade conditions is needed. FAS employs
analysts both here and abroad to gather this information and to provide the
analysis needed to carry out the agency's responsibilities.
Utilization of space-acquired data would amplify the ability of FAS to
assess world crop conditions.
For example, world agricultural production
could be monitored more accurately in-season, and changes due to drought or
crop diseases could be detected more quickly. Used in conjunction with weather and climate data and traditional agricultural information resources,
space-acquired data could provide a better basis for FAS policy and program
USDA's Interest in Remote Sensing
The Department of Agriculture is a long-time user of remote sensing, beginning with the use of aerial photography more than 40 years ago. It
uses remote sensing in a wide var iety of ways, including land measurements;
crop, forest and soil inventories and condition assessments; mapmaking;
land surveying; and fire detection and monitoring. Since the early 1970's,
beginning with the launch of ERIS-1 (later renamed Landsat-1), we have been
interested in the potential of space technology as a new and valuable source
of data which could help this and other Executive Branch agencies to meet
their statutory responsibilities.
Two satellites, Landsats-1 and 2, have been providing multispectral
data over large areas since mid-1972. The Landsats cover the same areas
at frequent intervals and deliver data in computer processable form.
A third satellite, Landsat-C, to be launched this year and its new ground processing capability will make Landsat data available to users
in a matter of days instead of weeks.
Landsat-D, to be launched in 1981,
will provide substantially improved spacial and spectral resolution. We believe that these current and planned Landsats are providing us with an opportunity to develop, test, and evaluate ways to exploit space technology
as an additional source of data for the Department's information systems,
Consequently, FAS and other agencies are actively engaged in developing
and testing applications of Landsat data. Examples of these efforts
1. Under Foreign Agriculture Service Leadership.
The Large Area Crop Inventory Experiment (LACIE) is a joint
effort of USDA, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA),
and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The LACIE
objective is to develop, test, and evaluate a system to forecast foreign
Because of its responsibilities in the collection, analysis, and dissemination of foreign commodity supply/demand information, FAS has USDA lead responsibility for LACIE. However, other Departmental agencies are also participating in the experiment, including the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service (ASCS), Economics, Statistics and Cooperative Service (ESCS), Federal Crop Insurance Corporation (FCIC), Science and Education Administration (SEA), and the Soil Conservation Service (SCS). Phase I of LACIE, which began in November 1974, was devoted primarily to assembling and testing the various components of the experimental system. Phase II (1976 crop year) was a test of LACIE's ability to make in-season estimates of acreage, yield, and production for the wheat crop in the U.S. Great Plains, Canada, and two indicator regions in the Soviet Union. While spring wheat in the Northern Great Plains and Canada was significantly underestimated, LACIE at-harvest production estimates in Phase II were very close to final official estimates. Phase II LACIE research was directed toward development of techniques and procedures to overcome problems discovered in Phase I. During Phase III (1977 crop year), LACIE produced in-season wheat estimates for the U.S. Great Plains and the Soviet Union; directed research and testing efforts toward problem solving; and procured the first components of a USDA system which will test and evaluate technology developed through the joint USDA/NASA/NOAA program. Final Phase III evaluations are not yet complete, but we have determined that the LACIE estimates for the U.S. Great Plains were within 9 percent of the official SRS estimates. Comparisons of LACIE estimates for USSR with official estimates are not possible at this time since official estimates available so far for 1977 are for total grain, whereas LACIE estimates are for wheat. However,
is significant that the LACIE successfully picked up indications of the
drought in the Soviet spring wheat region early in the growing season.
full evaluation will be completed when the final USSR wheat production
statistics are made available later this spring. The current LACIE pro
ject will end with the completion of the final evaluations in mid-1978.
USDA, NASA, and NDAA are currently planning a follow-up to LACIE, which
will begin 1979.
This new program will build on LACIE experience and will
expand research, development, and testing to additional crops, regions, and
The new program will be discussed later in this statement.
NASA are cooperating in developing and testing ways to use satellite data
to aid the Forest Service in accomplishing its missions. Specifically, they
are looking at large area forest and rangeland inventory; impacts of insects
and disease on forests; environmental monitoring and impact assessments; and
identifying applications of remote sensing for forest and rangeland manage
An Exper imental Effort by the Statistical Reporting Service 1/ SRS to classify and inventory major crops in selected areas in the United
States, using Landsat data and the high speed data processing capability of
the NASA Ames Research Center.
Efforts last year concentrated on techni
ques to better separate crops spectrally, and on planning a quasi-operational
1 SRS is now a part of the new Economics, Statistics and Cooperative