Changes in Federal Ag Agencies

Every year, the National Association of Farm Broadcasters throws together a trade talk, where leaders of agriculture businesses and government agencies gather to be interviewed by farm reporters.

David Geiger took this opportunity to talk to agricultural federal agencies about the direction of the Trump Administration, now that it's had nearly a year in power.

First off, he talked to the Environmental Protection Agency Region 7, which includes Iowa.

Region 7 Administrator Jim Gulliford says the EPA has a threefold direction: First, they want to protect human and environmental health. Second, they want to improve the relationship between the EPA and states particularly in delegating power. Finally they want to implement the law as it was passed by congress.

Gulliford says under new leadership, the EPA perspective is farmers want to do what's right environmentally, "First of all we want to be able to communicate better with agriculture. Meet with them, talk with them, hear from them the challenges that they face. And so, that's our first approach, but secondly, we are the regulator and we are the backstop to those national statutes and we'll do that job as well when its appropriate."

Over at the Farm Service Agency (FSA) booth, Geiger spoke to Acting Administrator Steven Peterson. Who was pushing for farmers to get out and vote in the county committee elections.

Peterson says ballots are out and need to be in by December 4, "We're going through our county committee election process where we have a board of county committee members that are at the local level. and sit on that board to provide guidance in that local office. We're going through that election process to elect one of those members."

Peterson says the agency is changing, Secretary Sonny Perdue has realigned the FSA with the National Conservation Reserve Service (NRCS) and the Risk Management Agency (RMA). Those groups all now need to work together.

At the NRCS booth, Geiger spoke to Acting Administrator Leonard Jordan. He says joining the groups makes sense, the FSA, NRCS, and RMA all are frequented by farmers. By putting the groups together, they can focus on another of Secretary Perdue's priorities: good customer service.

Jordan says, "So when a producer walks in the door, he or she can ask a question and there's someone there to provide that assistance. In other words when they walk in the door, we say, 'How can we help you today?' And so that's the emphasis that he's brought to the table and put forth to us. And we are rallying around that, David, to try and do everything within our power to ensure we're there to ensure the customers."

Another federal agency that farmers pay a lot of attention to is the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), they're the ones who come up with the crop progress reports.

This year, they're conducting the U.S. Census of Agriculture, which only comes out every five years and is a complete count of every farmer and rancher in the United States.

Geiger spoke to Barbara Rater, she's the director of Census and Surveys for NASS and she wants farmers to take the time, by mail or online, to fill out the census.

They're in the process now of mailing out nearly 2 million questionnaires, they'll collect data for the next few months, and in February of 2019 they'll have it finished up.

Rater says, "Not only do we put the census forms in the hands of every farmer, but it also allows us to generate or publish statistics, not only at the U.S. level, but at the state level, at the county level. A lot of times, we're asked for information at a more local level for decision making and the census is really our opportunity to do that."

Rater adds she's been working in agriculture service for more than 30 years and believes that the U.S. Census of Agriculture gives a voice to all farmers and ranchers across the nation.