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Published March 14, 2011, 04:45 AM

ND FSA director talks about his position, agency

Don’t try to tell Aaron Krauter, executive director of the North Dakota Farm Service Agency, that he works for the government.

By: Jonathan Knutson, Agweek

Don’t try to tell Aaron Krauter, executive director of the North Dakota Farm Service Agency, that he works for the government.

“I work for farmers, not the government,” says Krauter. “I have the best job in agriculture in North Dakota.”

Krauter, once a farmer and Democratic state legislator from Regent, N.D., has led the North Dakota FSA since August 2009. President Obama picked him for the job, which is filled by political appointment.

If you farm or ranch on the Northern Plains, you almost certainly have had dealings with the Farm Service Agency. The FSA, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is involved in disaster, commodity, conservation and farm loan programs, among many other things.

Highlights

Krauter says the highlight of his 18 months in the job “is to fully implement all the provisions of the 2008 farm bill,” provisions ranging from “permanent disaster for production agriculture to the livestock indemnity program to things relating to beginning farmers.”

“As a farmer for 25 years, advocating for these types of policy issues, to see them enacted and then to get to administer them for fellow farmers — that’s pretty sweet,” he says.

Krauter now lives in Fargo, N.D., where FSA has its state offices.

He says two relatives are running his family farm, although he gets back to help as often as possible.

About a third of state FSA directors have current ties to production ag, he estimates.

He has mixed feelings about no longer being a state legislator.

“I don’t miss the political games. Do I miss the people and the issues? Yes,” he says.

Farmers and ranchers in general have a good relationship with FSA, he says.

“Ninety-nine percent of producers in the state understand what FSA is about. They’re not looking for a handout,” he says.

Some farmers complain that FSA paperwork and regulations are too complicated.

Krauter says farming overall has become more technical and complicated, making documentation more important than ever.

‘Be careful what you say’

Federal deficit problems likely will lead to less federal spending on ag, Krauter says.

For instance, farmers can expect to pay a greater share of the cost of federal crop insurance, he says.

He advised agriculturalists to use discretion in the debate over potential cuts in federal ag spending.

“A lot of things that are on the table, people just need to be careful of how they speak about. Close your mouth, breathe through your nose, be careful what you say. Be sure you say the right thing, the smart thing. Just think it through,” he says.

Krauter says he’s enjoying his time at FSA, in no small part because of the agency’s “phenomenal” employees.

“As long as the president and (USDA) Secretary (Tom) Vilsack think I’m doing a good job, I’m going to keep on working hard for the producers of North Dakota,” he says.

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