When I contacted the local USDA office here in California I had no idea the amazing interview opportunity I would be given. Sworn in to office in May 2018, Richard Fordyce began his career as the Farming Service Administrator of the USDA. A farmer himself, Mr. Fordyce understands the work ethic that comes from our producers and applies his back ground in agriculture to his current job as the Administrator of the FSA.
What Does The FSA Do?
The Farming Service Agency is the portion of the United States Department of Agriculture that directly engages with farmers and ranchers on a local level. The government programs that benefit the farming community are accessible through the FSA to farmers and ranchers. These programs include loans, a safety net and disaster relief.
Among the many services the FSA provides, acre reporting is one. As Mr. Fordyce explained “It’s to build the national story of farmers and their hard work.” With around 21,000 county offices and roughly 10,000 employees the FSA has the ability to provide a customer centered environment.
The FSA And COVID-19.
Around mid-March the FSA was faced with the same dilemma as the rest of the county and world, how to run business under the threat of a pandemic. At the start of this pandemic every office was closed as the employees worked from home.
While this was for the safety of both the employees and producers they serve, it made things hard overall. Now they have a rotation system of a few individuals in the office at any given time, while still having the majority working from home. As the agency is customer service based, facing the need to upgrade technology was paramount.
Moving into the 21st century meant new technology and a new way of doing things. As most of the process was paperwork for farmers before the pandemic, changing to a digital format was vital to continue business. When presented with the challenge of COVID-19 Fordyce said of the FSA “Our people embraced it, adopted and adapted very quickly.”
“The investment into new technology was inevitable,” mentioned Mr. Fordyce. “As the pandemic forced the FSA to alter business practices to keep the status quo, some would say this change was for the better. We are able to bundle information for producers to review and sign now, rather than make a long process even longer. When the producer signs digitally it is immediately sent back and that has significantly minimized the wait time.”
Positives To Think About
“With this pandemic came a validation of how important the FSA really is at that local level,” Fordyce explained. “We’re all in this together, now more than ever.” The time and ability to modernize the way of business for the FSA came directly from the challenge that is this pandemic.
Each member of the FSA has gone above and beyond their call of duty to face COVID-19 head on. As the farmers they serve have a commitment to their fields and livestock, so does the FSA to the farming community.
About Richard Fordyce
A farmer from Missouri, Mr. Fordyce’s main crops are corn and soybeans. He also has cattle. Familiar with the saying ‘A farmer’s work is never done’, Fordyce has always had the hard work ethic we see in his position as the FSA Administrator.
Another side to Mr. Fordyce’s farm is the cattle he owns. When asked to share a funny story from his farm Mr. Fordyce laughed when he said “Any time you work with livestock something funny will happen.”
He recalled a memory of working with a farm hand on their four wheelers, and noticing in his beautiful seventy acre corn field, cow prints and damage. The cattle have fields dedicated to their grazing next to this field of corn.
As Mr. Fordyce and his farm hand searched the corn for the stray cattle they came up empty handed. This went on for several days until the farm hand made mention of how the naughty cows must recognize the sound of the four wheeler engines.
As it turned out the culprits were two weaned calves that snuck through the fence “like ninjas” as Mr. Fordyce said. They didn’t leave a broken fence nor did they leave any fur behind . It wasn’t until he saw them sneaking around the corn that he knew who was to blame from the herd.
The End Of The Interview.
After our lovely conversation, came to an end and we said our goodbyes, I was struck by how pleasant Richard Fordyce is to speak with. I am thankful that he took the time to talk to me. In this time of uncertainty, the FSA is working hard to provide a constant source of help for our agricultural communities nationwide, thereby benefiting the people of this country.