Farm Progress

Montana FSA director retires

Bruce Nelson leaves his position after serving the agency for more than 15 years and under two presidents.

January 12, 2017

2 Min Read
MOVING ON: Bruce Nelson, who served as state executive director for USDA's Farm Service Agency under two presidents, officially retired at the end of 2016.

Bruce Nelson served farmers and ranchers for 15 years as state executive director of USDA's Farm Service Agency. That work ended with his retirement at the end of 2016.

Nelson's career in that role was split between two presidents: seven-and-a-half years for President Barack Obama; and earlier, seven-and-a-half years for President Bill Clinton. As state executive director, Nelson oversaw FSA and the 48 FSA service center offices across Montana.

In 2011, he was appointed as administrator of the Farm Service Agency in Washington, D.C., and served in the national position until 2012, when he returned to his role as state executive director in Montana.

In November 2015, Nelson was awarded the Abraham Lincoln Honor Awards for Diversity, Inclusion and Outreach for his leadership in expanding program delivery with Montana tribes, and on the state's seven Indian reservations. The award is the highest honor within USDA. In 2000, Nelson received the Distinguished Service Award from the FSA administrator in recognition of seven years of service to the community, the agency and USDA. He was also honored by the Intertribal Agriculture Council for his leadership in providing Indian producers the opportunity to participate in FSA programs. In 1995, Nelson received the Secretary’s Honors Award for his leadership in USDA outreach efforts in Montana.

Nelson is a fourth-generation Montana wheat farmer and a Fort Benton native. He was raised on the Fort Benton farm his grandparents homesteaded. Nelson received a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Montana.

Nelson’s background includes more than 30 years of professional work with federal, state and private organizations. He served as administrative assistant to Montana Gov. Tom Judge from 1975-1978 and as chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Pat Williams (D-Mont.) from 1979 to 1980. He was originally appointed to head the FSA in Montana by the Clinton administration in 1993, after serving as chairman of the Montana Democratic Party from 1983 to 1991. Nelson worked as development project manager for Zoot Enterprises from 2001 to 2004. He subsequently served as Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer’s chief of staff from 2005-2009. In 2009, Nelson was appointed by the Obama administration to his prior position as state executive director of the FSA. In 2011, Nelson was appointed as administrator of FSA in Washington, D.C. and served in the position until 2012, when he returned to serve as state executive director of FSA in Montana. He left his position effective Dec. 31.

Amy Webbink, chief administrative officer for FSA, will be acting state executive director until an appointment is made to that position.

Source: Montana USDA FSA

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