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Published March 14, 2011, 04:45 AM

FSA still vital, official says

Federal agricultural spending in programs administered by the Farm Service Agency most likely will take a hit, but the organization will continue to play a major role in U.S. agriculture, the executive director of the North Dakota FSA says.

By: Jonathan Knutson, Agweek

Federal agricultural spending in programs administered by the Farm Service Agency most likely will take a hit, but the organization will continue to play a major role in U.S. agriculture, the executive director of the North Dakota FSA says.

“We still need a safety net,” Aaron Krauter says.

Krauter spoke March 8 in Grand Forks, N.D., to a group of agribusiness people.

Federal budget woes and high crop prices have many in Washington predicting that federal ag spending will drop sharply.

Politicians and others who aren’t familiar with agriculture will be more sympathetic to federal ag spending if they realize that the spending provides a safety net for producers and helps to keep food safe and affordable safe for consumers, Krauter says.

“We’ve got to tell our story,” he says.

Growing food isn’t always profitable, and a safety net needs to be in place for tough times, he says.

FSA accounts for about 14 percent of the budget of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, of which FSA is part.

Krauter says some revisions in ag spending appear inevitable.

For instance, federal crop insurance subsidies most likely will decline, with producers shouldering a greater share of the overall cost, he says.

But FSA’s core mission — helping farmers and ranchers with commodity, disaster, conservation and farm loan programs — will remain, he says.

According to information from FSA North Dakota:

The organization employs more than 350 people in North Dakota in 51 service centers across the state and at state headquarters in Fargo.

Last year, North Dakota producers received $967 million through FSA and the Commodity Credit Corp. North Dakota ranks fourth nationally in program payments, behind Iowa, Texas and Minnesota.

Among the many voluntary programs administered by FSA:

- The Conservation Reserve Program.

- Direct and Counter-Cyclical Program.

- Marketing assistance loans.

- Farm storage facility loans.

- Disaster programs. These include a wide range of programs for both crops and livestock.

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