Interactive statistical map bonds agencies together

Monday - 2/28/2011, 2:03pm EST

John Cromartie, USDA

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By Olivia Branco
Federal News Radio

Many federal agencies base policies on what they know about a geographic area. Things like population density, incomes or other economic factors.

Now the Agriculture Department has created a detailed, online place to learn about rural America.

The Atlas of Rural and Small Town America will help agencies with their own policy making and encourages them to work together.

John Cromartie, a geographer with USDA's Resource and Rural Economics Division, joined The Federal Drive with Tom Temin and Amy Morris and discussed how the Atlas impacts various agencies.

The Atlas is a web-based interactive map that includes statistics important in gauging the countries various counties.

In order for the USDA to compile all of this information in one place many agencies were involved.

"What we've done...is assembled the latest county level statistics, population statistics, economic statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau and other federal sources and we've put them into easy to use web-based mapping program," Cromartie said.

"We've added features that help highlight both the overall scope and especially the diversity of socioeconomic trends that effect counties of different types across the country."

Cromartie added that among the federal agencies involved in the information compilation process were the U.S. Census Burear, the Bureau of Labor and Statistics and the USDA's latest census of agriculture.

"The release of the Atlas...follows on the heels of the release of the first full set of county level data from the Census Bureau's American Community Survey," Cromartie said. "For hundreds of small counties around the U.S. these data that came out in December offer the first chance to really measure key socioeconomic information since the previous census in 2000."

"There's other data being released by the Census and other agencies that really make this a good time to try and bring all of these important policy relevant indicators together in one mapping program."