Soil moisture is a fundamental data source used by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) International Production Assessment Division (IPAD) to monitor crop growth stage and condition and subsequently, globally forecast agricultural yields. Currently, the USDA IPAD estimates surface and root-zone soil moisture using a two-layer modified Palmer soil moisture model forced by global precipitation and temperature measurements. However, this approach suffers from well-known errors arising from uncertainty in model forcing data and highly simplified model physics. Here, we attempt to correct for these errors by designing and applying an Ensemble Kalman filter (EnKF) data assimilation system to integrate surface soil moisture retrievals from the NASA Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer (AMSR-E) into the USDA modified Palmer soil moisture model. An assessment of soil moisture analysis products produced from this assimilation has been completed for a five-year (2002 to 2007) period over the North American continent between 23° N-50° N and 128° W-65° W. In particular, a data denial experimental approach is utilized to isolate the added utility of integrating remotely sensed soil moisture by comparing EnKF soil moisture results obtained using (relatively) low-quality precipitation products obtained from real-time satellite imagery to baseline Palmer model runs forced with higher quality rainfall. An analysis of root-zone anomalies for each model simulation suggests that the assimilation of AMSR-E surface soil moisture retrievals can add significant value to USDA root-zone predictions derived from real-time satellite precipitation products.