FSA’s Fordyce Rises to the Challenge

FSA Administrator Richard Fordyce
( FSA.USDA.gov )

Richard Fordyce has his work cut out for him. Appointed administrator of USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) in May, he’s had a busy summer and is positioned to have a busier fall. The new Market Facilitation Program (MFP) announced by President Trump will be administered by FSA. Approximately $4.7 billion in cash payments will go to producers of specific commodities to help cover losses associated with trade disruptions and tariffs (pig farmers will get $8/head on 50% of their production – read more here). The MFP program will provide payments to corn, cotton, dairy, hog, sorghum, soybean, and wheat producers starting September 4, 2018.

Fordyce had been the head of the Missouri FSA office and also served as director of agriculture under former Gov. Jay Nixon from 2013-2017. He is a fourth-generation soybean, corn and cattle farmer from Bethany, Mo. (Harrison County). He served several years on the United Soybean Board and also on the U.S. Soybean Export Council, so he knows the importance of trade.

With 51 state offices and 2,124 county offices, including offices in U.S. territories, FSA implements farm programs and farm loans to farmers and ranchers across the country.

Fordyce spoke at the Farm Progress Show this week and talked about his unique perspective as a farmer as well as an administrator of farm programs. He said it was unprecedented that FAS would be administering two major programs concurrently in a short period of time, but believes the process will work well.

“All programs are IT-driven and we do need some upgrades,” he admitted. “But we do have a new website (www.farmers.gov) to help farmers. As we go forward, we’ll be able to do more with technology.”

According to the website, Farmers.gov “provides farmers, ranchers, private foresters, and agricultural producers with online self-service applications, educational materials, engagement opportunities, and business tools to increase efficiency and productivity while preserving and fostering long-held traditional relationships between local USDA offices and producers.” It’s designed to be straightforward and easy to use.

Fordyce talked briefly about how the money would be allocated between the commodities (see this article to learn more about the documents you’ll need to receive a payment), and that the rates will be enforced for 50% of a producer’s production.

Positive Trade Developments
Fordyce felt the situation was improving on the trade front, saying he sees positive developments.

“I do appreciate that the president is taking a different approach,” Fordyce said. “Trade has to be a two-way street and it has to be fair for both parties. I’ve spent 40 years cultivating relationships and I know this is true.”

FSA administers the government's income support, disaster assistance, loan, land conservation, commodities purchase, and other programs.

As announced last month, USDA will authorize up to $12 billion in programs, consistent with World Trade Organization obligations.

“Early on, the President instructed me, as Secretary of Agriculture, to make sure our farmers did not bear the brunt of unfair retaliatory tariffs,” Sonny Perdue said in a news release from USDA. “After careful analysis by our team at USDA, we have formulated our strategy to mitigate the trade damages sustained by our farmers. Our farmers work hard, and are the most productive in the world, and we aim to protect them.”

Farm Progress Show Highs and Lows
On Tuesday, the show was cancelled at 11:15 a.m. due to lightning in the area, said Matt Jungmann, FPS show manager. Heavy rains ensued and the parking lots were mud bogs, but by Wednesday, the show grounds were headed back to normal. This was the 65th Farm Progress Show and the sixth time it had been held in Boone, Iowa.

This year, USDA Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue was on hand to share information about trade and farmer compensation for losses associated with tariffs. Eight previous secretaries of agriculture as well as eleven lieutenant governors were also in attendance this year.

To learn about more highlights at the show, read this article by Sonja Begemann.