SPENCER, South Dakota — Whether it’s working on her 100-year-old farm, helping Pine Ridge tribal officials with farm subsidies or helping manage the funds of the South Dakota Democratic Party, Marcia Bunger has done it all. Now, she’ll face a new challenge: serving as United States Department of Agriculture’s Risk Management Agency Administrator.
The Risk Management Agency, created in 1996, largely oversees and enforces the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation, which provides farmers and agricultural organizations and entities across the country with crop insurance protection.
“I am humbled to be appointed as USDA’s Risk Management Agency Administrator for the Biden Administration,” Bunger said in a press release. In an interview with the Mitchell Republic, she called her appointment “surreal.”
As the head of the agency, Bunger is tasked with ensuring compliance with all RMA- and FCIC-related programs.
“The administrator oversees all of the crop insurance rules and regulations. They also assist with presenting new products after they've been researched,” Bunger said. “It’s a lot of making sure that (approved insurance providers) are following the rules because a large part of the crop insurance program is federally subsidized dollars.”
One of the Biden administration’s priorities, according to Bunger, is identifying historically underserved populations — such as African American communities in the southeastern United States and tribal communities in South Dakota — so they can learn more about RMA’s programs to incorporate them into their farms.
Bunger’s lengthy resume offers a wide variety of experiences that qualify her for such a position.
While working with her husband on their century-old farm, Bunger has spent over 25 years with the Farm Service Agency, including 18 years as a county executive director, where she worked closely with Pine Ridge tribal government leaders and personnel to administer FSA programs. She’s also worked as a crop insurance specialist and a crop insurance officer and spent 15 years on the South Dakota Advisory Council to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.
“It's been a building process to culminate where I'm at today,” Bunger said. “It really gave me the warm and fuzzies that it isn't about who you know, it's about what you know.”
Up until she was sworn into the RMA on Monday, she served as co-treasurer of the South Dakota Democratic Party, prompting the party’s chair, Randy Seiler, to publish a statement.
“I am pleased the Biden Administration has appointed a South Dakotan to such an important position,” Seiler said, congratulating her. “I know she will do great work for the Biden Administration.”
Though it’s unknown if Bunger is the first South Dakotan to hold the position, she is the first Asian-American woman to do so, furthering the Biden administration’s commitment to create a diverse federal government.
Zach Ducheneaux, a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe in South Dakota, has served as the USDA’s Farm Service Agency — a different branch from the RMA — since February.
Bunger was sworn in via Zoom from her home in Spencer on Monday, as has already begun serving as the RMA’s administrator. She has resigned from her position with the state's Democratic Party.