On Friday, two national leaders involved in ensuring the Farm Service Agency's agricultural support role were on Capitol Hill with dire warnings about potentially dire consequences of FSA's information technology system. They told a House Ag Subcommittee that the IT system was on the verge of "meltdown".
Craig Turner, President of the National Association of Farmer Elected Committees testified that much of FSA's IT structure "is archaic and fragile. We are uncomfortably close to a total IT meltdown and fear that service to farmers is in a perilous situation.
"For too many years, FSA has been forced to take funding away from salaries for staff and expense money for county and state offices to fund stop-gap measures to keep the old IT system up and running. The challenge of delivering this multitude of highly complex programs to a much larger customer base has been, and continues to be, exacerbated with an ever-declining FSA workforce and an ever-shrinking number of county offices," declared the farmer and rancher from Matador, Texas.
Unfortunately, he added, "FSA has bled all of the people and brick and mortar it can afford to keep the old IT system running. There must be a separate, dedicated, statutory funding stream for a modern IT platform -- authorized by Congress -- if we are to deliver all of the programs authorized by Congress to all of the farmers and ranchers mandated by Congress."
Turner's testimony may be found at kscw.com/kscwdocs/NAFEC_IT_Testimony_10_MAR_10.pdf, and the accompanying exhibit at kscw.com/kscwdocs/FSAFactSheet.pdf
Turner's comments were reinforced by Mike Mayfield, legislative chairman of the National Association of Farm Service Agency County Office Employees. Mayfield reported employee survey results such as, "Do the current software applications provide you with the ability to timely service producers?" 81% said "NO"!
Questioned by the ag subcommittee to examples of needed IT advancments, Mayfield responded that USDA's duplicative software processes need to be eliminated, producers should not have to provide the same information multiple times to different USDA Agencies. His testimony can be viewed at www.nascoe.org