Farm Progress

What USDA Farm Service Agency Can Do For You 211309

United States Department of Agriculture's FSA offers a variety of programs to assist agricultural producers.

January 20, 2014

4 Min Read
HOW FSA CAN HELP: USDA's Farm Service Agency provides many opportunities for agricultural producers to enhance, expand, begin and maintain farming operations.

FAQ: What type of federal farm program support does USDA's Farm Service Agency provide to agricultural producers?

Answer: In our Farm Program FAQ column this week, Wallaces Famer posed that question and other related questions to John Whitaker, state executive director for FSA in Iowa. He provides the following answers regarding FSA and the various programs the agency offers.

Since the 1930s, FSA has provided invaluable support to America's ag producers. Today, Farm Service Agency's responsibilities are organized into five mission areas: Farm Programs, Farm Loans, Commodity Operations, Management, and State Operations. Below are the two primary mission areas administered through FSA's extensive network of county offices.

Farm programs—FSA farm programs include commodity and price support, conservation and disaster assistance programs.

Farm loan programs—FSA provides credit to agricultural producers who are unable to receive private, commercial credit. FSA places special emphasis on providing loans to beginning, minority and women farmers and ranchers.

Programs administered by Farm Service Agency are legislated by Congress through the passage of a farm bill. USDA and its agencies await congressional action on a new farm bill or extension of the current farm bill.

Question: How many programs does USDA have?

Answer: On average, Farm Service Agency administers more than 50 federal farm programs nationwide. There is literally something of interest to everyone regardless of size or type of a particular ag operation. Whether you have a row crop, livestock, diversified, niche market, small or large operation, there are likely Farm Service Agency programs for which you may qualify.

Question: I haven't previously participated in any Farm Service Agency programs and would like to learn more about these programs. What do I need to do to get started?

Answer: The first step is to make an appointment with your local Farm Servce Agency office. FSA's personnel will explain valuable programs and benefits that could be available to you. If you decide to voluntarily enroll your farm in the USDA database, Farm Service Agency will assist you in locating your farm on the aerial photography and will assign you a farm number which will be used to manage future program participation.

Related: Find Your Local FSA By State

When you visit Farm Service Agency for the first time, it will be helpful for you to bring the following information in order to expedite your enrollment and begin learning about available benefits:

Proof of identity—You will be required to show a valid state driver's license, passport or other form of personal identification as well as provide your Social Security card or IRS paperwork that verifies an Employer Identification Number or EIN. Original documents are required for verification and photocopying.

Proof of ownership—Copy of the recorded deed or rental agreement as evidence of land ownership or control

Entity identification and status—Copy of the articles of corporation; trust and estate documents; or partnership agreements

Financial and production records—If you apply for a farm ownership or operating loan from FSA, financial and production records must be furnished.

It takes time to process the paperwork and additional information may be needed for commodity, disaster and conservation program applications—so pre-planning is encouraged.

Question: What is Farm Service Agengy's policy on handling and protecting confidential and private information?

Answer: Many of the USDA program application forms or documentation require that the applicant provide sensitive contact, financial or other confidential information. Disclosure of this data is voluntary, but failure to provide the required information may result in the deferral of your application or denial of a benefit payment. By law, 'confidential, private and sensitive information' is protected by USDA. USDA employees and partners are subject to penalty and disciplinary action for inappropriate or mismanagement of private data.

Related: Find Your Local FSA By State

Question: How can I learn more about the programs offered by Farm Service Agency and stay informed about future programs offered that may be applicable to my production agriculture operation or farming goals?

Answer: Make a point to visit one of our local USDA Service centers to ask our extremely knowledgeable staff for assistance or suggestions regarding programs that might meet needs specific to your farming operation.

Individuals interested in Farm Service Agency programs should take notice of information that is sent from FSA via electronic newsletters and other direct correspondence. These informational materials provide general program information, eligibility requirements and sign-up dates. To subscribe to FSA's monthly newsletters for a particular county or program, visit the FSA website. Additional information on Farm Service Agency programs and to find the the closest USDA Service Center to your location visit the national FSA website.

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