Retiring FSA staffer reflects on years of change

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Hello again,

Northeast Ohio has a great FSA staff and the lady with the most years of service is calling it quits — Patty Davis. She has worked as a program technician and county executive director and has always been a class act. I personally have always admired her intelligence, patience and dedication to our agency. Patty wanted to share her last FSA Andy with you.

Change is inevitable

Looking back over the past 38 years of my career with the Farm Service Agency, change was part of my work life on a daily, weekly, yearly basis.

As one of your FSA Andy contributors through the years, I will make a huge change by retiring Dec. 30, so I thought I would write one last article. I got to thinking this morning as I lay in bed waiting on the alarm to go off at 4:40 a.m. (that is the first thing to go when I get home Dec. 30) about all of the changes I have witnessed over the past 38 years.

Let’s start with the agency name

When I began in 1978 it was known as the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service or ASCS. In 1994 we became the Farm Service Agency for about a week then went to the Consolidated Farm Service Agency.

Soon after the Consolidated was dropped from our name and we went back to the Farm Service Agency.

Elections

I was hired to get the mailing ready for the 1978 election for the Carroll County Community Committee.

Yes, we held an election for the entire county for a community committee who then met to elect the County Committee.

We had to print off and stuff envelopes for all owners and operators for the entire county to receive a ballot so they could vote and mail it back. It took probably at least a month to get this task completed.

Today, we elect one county committee person for a single local administrative area. We load the information in the computer with the ballots being printed and mailed by a national contractor.

Computerization

Up until 1986 all paperwork was completed by either a typewriter or pen. Yes all of those acreage reports you file every year for each individual field (many strips for my Carroll County producers) were hand written.

Now we load them into the computer, hit the print button and they are ready for your signature.

Payments

As for program payments we had to type up all of the farm information on a special paper with a special font and mail it off to Kansas City for processing. If you made a mistake, you had to start over.

When payments were determined, we received the checks, signed them and mailed them out. Now all of the program information is in the computer.

You sign your contract that we print off, we load the approval date and payments magically appear once payment rates are determined in your bank accounts thanks to direct deposit.

Newsletters

What a change here. I can remember typing up the stencil and running off the newsletters on the mimeograph machine. We then had to fold them, address them and sort them for mailing. We now have two choices;

  1. Send a bulletin by GovDelivery that is prepared on the computer and emailed to producers.
  2. We can send the finished product by email to Kansas City who will print and mail for us.

Aerial photos

I am sure as a producer you remember using paper maps that were 5 to 10 years old. Now we get new imagery about every year.

Programs

I have seen and/or implemented seven Farm Bills. After the implementation of the 2014 Farm Bill, I decided this would be my last Farm Bill.

I can remember the introduction the Payment In Kind (PIK) program in 1983. We went to Columbus for a one-day training and sign up started the next day.

At the time, we were amazed at the complexity of the program. Could it get any worse in my career? Yes is the only answer I can give you.

Throughout the years I have had the opportunity to work with producers from Carroll, Trumbull, Portage, Summit and now Stark County. It has been a fun and wild ride which I would not trade for anything.

I will miss all of the producers and my co-workers who I have worked with through the years. What I will not miss are the procedure and program changes that seem to appear daily or weekly. In closing all I can say is, thank you!

An open house for Patty Davis will be Dec. 28 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the Stark County FSA office, 2650 Richville Drive Southeast in Massillon. Stop in and help celebrate Patty’s Retirement.

That’s all for now,

FSA Andy

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FSA Andy is written by USDA Farm Service Agency county executive directors in northeastern Ohio.

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