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Free Government Information (FGI) is a place for initiating dialogue and building consensus among the various players (libraries, government agencies, non-profit organizations, researchers, journalists, etc.) who have a stake in the preservation of and perpetual free access to government information. FGI promotes free government information through collaboration, education, advocacy and research.

Government Information? You’re Soaking in It!

You're soaking in it! Source - http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/5/52/Madge_palmolive.jpg
You’re soaking in it! Source – http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/5/52/Madge_palmolive.jpg

[UPDATE #1: Christian James tweeted that besides the National Agricultural Library, we should also credit USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and their National Nutrient Database. So big thanks to USDA-ARS!]

Many Americans don’t think they use government information, but they’re wrong. Many people think that the private sector meets their information needs just fine and government shouldn’t be “wasting resources” by collecting and sharing information. They’re wrong too.

But it’s not entirely their fault. For example, in the last few months Bing and Google both started to provide an impressive amount of nutritional information in response to searches on food names. I’m a fan of kale chips, so I typed “kale” into Google and got this:


Kale "from Google"
Kale “from Google”

The private sector at work, right? Who needs the government to produce nutritional information when we can just Google or Bing it? Right?

Um. No. If you look at the very bottom of the image in both Google and Bing, you’ll find some very important fine print. Here it is from Google:

USDA (National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 27) The secret sauce.
USDA (National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 27) The secret sauce.

Notice the tiny “Sources include USDA”? If you think to mouse down to the word “USDA” and click it, you’ll be whisked away to the entry for kale in the US Department of Agriculture’s National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, produced by the National Agricultural Library (NAL).

Cut the NAL too much and they’ll have to drop the National Nutrient Database. Then bye-bye to your real time, up to date nutritional data in your search engines results.

The invisible hand of government information shows up in a lot of places if you know to look for it. In the pre internet days you could have not produced an almanac without one. Today, any private website that has any sort of detailed demographic information for states, cities and neighborhoods is almost certainly pulling from the beleaguered Census Bureau. Those private sector sites telling you about the hottest jobs in demand over the next ten years? Likely pulling from the Occupational Outlook Handbook produced by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And so it goes. If people say, “I don’t use government information, I use Google” show them how they’re actually soaking in government information. Then ask them to write Congress to keep their hands off their favorite information sources.

A Roundup of Recent Government Info News and New Resources

More news and new resources via INFOdocket.com.

1. White House Launches Ethics.gov

2. USDA: Consumers to Receive Timely Food Safety Alerts Through New State Twitter Feeds

3. A Law Classification Scheme as Linked Data?

4. Access GAO Reports and Legal Decisions via New App for iOS (Free)

5. National Broadband Map Updated, New Data Added

6. United Nations Releases 2012 E-Government Survey (Full Text), Country Rankings Updated

7. Compare Country Statistics With New United Nations CountryStats iOS App (Free)

8. UNESCO Releases World Atlas of Gender Equality in Education (Full Text, Free)

9. New Online Database from NIH: Genetic Testing Registry, Video Tutorials Available

10. Open Data: DOE Data Explorer Now Searches Individual Datasets

11. Archivist of the United States Appoints New Director of Presidential Libraries

Roundup of Recent Government Info News and New Resources

Time once again for a selection of news and new resources that we hope will be an interest to the FGI community. The following posts are from INFOdocket.com (@infofodocket) where we compile and post new items daily.

1. New iOS App From SEC: U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission News

2. Just Released: Library of Congress Offers Congressional Record As iPad App

3. National Library of Medicine Announces Latest Release of Its “History of Medicine Finding Aids Consortium”

4. Asked and Answered Questions: U.S. Department of Education Releases Mobile Version of Answers.Ed.gov

5. Smithsonian Gets Dedicated Funds for Digitization and New Media, Will Spend $8.7 Million In FY 2012

6. The Library of Congress Names Gayle Osterberg Director of Communications

7. EPA Releases Comprehensive Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Online Database and Dataset Available

8. White Paper: “Authentication of Primary Legal Materials and Pricing Options”

9. Federal Elections Commission (FEC) Launches Mobile Web Site

10. Full Text Reference Resource: Trade & Development: UNCTAD Handbook of Statistics 2011
From the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.

11. NARA Launches “Citizen Archivist Dashboard”

12. U.S. Bankruptcy Courts Begin Offering Online Chat Services

13. USDA Launches New Online Nutrition SuperTracker

14. New Database: Time-Series Plots of Phrases in U.S. Supreme Court Opinions (Legal Language Explorer)

15. Statistics: NLM Updates MEDLINE Indicators With FY2011 Numbers

USDA reverses decision to stop farm reports. Hear that Census Bureau?

The NY Times reported yesterday that the USDA has reversed a decision to end farming reports. Evidently, when an industry group(s) complains, the US Govt listens. So why hasn’t the Census Bureau changed their decision on killing the US Statistical Abstract?

In an abrupt about-face, the United States Department of Agriculture has decided to reverse a decision to eliminate dozens of long-standing statistical reports on a wide range of farming activities, including beekeeping, hop growing and flower farming. The agency’s statistics service said in October that it was forced by budget constraints to cut the reports and that doing so would save $11 million a year.

That led to an outcry from farm groups that said the information collected by the agency was essential. Farmers rely on the reports to decide how much to plant and how many animals to raise; they use the information to persuade bankers to lend them money and to advocate for other types of government support.

So now the Agriculture Department has reinstated most of the reports that had been given the ax. Saved are the reports on trout farming, catfish farming, floriculture, sheep and goats, bees and honey production and mink farming, among others.

Mitt Walker, director of the Alabama Catfish Producers, said the sudden switch was probably “a result of the outcry from the affected commodities,” a reference to farm trade groups.

AP Report: Feds tighten belt by cutting agriculture reports

Via INFOdocket.com

From the AP:

The U.S. Agriculture Department has kept tabs for decades on a wide range of agricultural industries that generate billions of dollars for the U.S. economy. But that’s about to change, as the agency eliminates some reports and reduces the frequency of others to save millions of dollars in tight budget times.


A spokeswoman for the USDA division that produces the reports said it didn’t want to cut them but it had to do something to save money. Eliminating or reducing the frequency of 14 crop and livestock reports will save the National Agricultural Statistics Service about $10 million, Sue duPont said. NASS’s $156 million budget was cut in the federal fiscal year that ended Sept. 30 and more reductions are expected this year as Congress and the White House aim to trim federal spending.

The agency based its choices on the reports’ impact on markets and use by other programs that provide assistance to farmers, along with the availability of information from other sources, DuPont said.

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