FSA launches program to connect producers with services in Minnesota
KITTSON COUNTY, Minn. -- Farmers and ranchers already are familiar with their local Farm Service Agency office. Now, the FSA has launched a new program that seeks to connect agricultural producers with additional services.
KITTSON COUNTY, Minn. - Farmers and ranchers already are familiar with their local Farm Service Agency office. Now, the FSA has launched a new program that seeks to connect agricultural producers with additional services.
Bridges to Opportunity allows FSA employees to provide ag producers with information on grants, courses, events and activities provided by nonfederal ag agencies that partner with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. FSA is an arm of USDA.
“We’ve been doing some of these things all along,” says Kelly Turgeon, executive director of the Kittson County (Minn.) FSA. “But we’re formalizing the process (through Bridges to Opportunity).”
Kittson is one of 24 counties in Minnesota which Bridges to Opportunity rolled out this spring. The others are East Polk, Red Lake, Clay, Norman, Carlton, Cook, Kanabee, Lake, Morrison, Pine, North St. Louis, South St. Louis, Todd, Meeker, Traverse, Cottonwood, Rock, Watonwan, Carver, Faribault, McLeod, Martin and Mower.
The program is now available in 20 states and 195 county offices that service 316 countries.
North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana aren’t among the states in which the program is offered. But FSA says it hopes to expand the program nationwide.
Farm Service Agency might not be a household name outside agriculture, but you’ve most likely dealt with it if you farm or ranch on the Northern Plains. The FSA is involved in disaster, commodity, conservation and farm loan programs, among many other things.
Most Upper Midwest farmers and ranchers visit their county FSA offices regularly to update paperwork and stay current with changes in federal farm programs.
Bridges to Opportunity doesn’t connect ag producers to ag businesses that charge a fee, only to no-cost providers such as the University of Minnesota Extension and Minnesota Department of Agriculture, Turgeon says.
Ag producers potentially could make the connection on their own, “but what we’re seeing is, at times, in the busy world we live in, folks may have a hard time identifying opportunities available to them,” he says.
Ag producers can email or call their local FSA office about Bridges to Opportunity, but a personal visit usually helps producers get the information they seek, he says.
Some county FSA offices accept appointments. Some don’t.
Because FSA is so new, assessing ag producers’ reaction is difficult, Turgeon says.
“We’re still in the infancy stage,” he says. “But I anticipate this will only grow.”
For more information, visit fsa.usda.gov.