For nearly 24 years, key staffers within the eastern Ohio U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency offices have been sharing program updates in the “Ask FSA Andy” column. The first column appeared in Farm and Dairy June 2, 1994. That was before the USDA agency changed its name from the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service, and this column was originally called “Ask ASCS Andy.” You know, creative alliteration and all that.
Todd Brace was a regional director for ASCS at the time we began, and the column was actually his brainchild. I remember meeting with a group of the county directors at the Atwood Lodge to whip them into shape encourage them as writers, and our child was born.
So for 52 weeks a year, this dedicated group of writers toiled behind the scenes — we never identified the individual authors — to provide advice and reminders about federal farm programs in more than 1,200 columns.
Just last summer, I met with the current authors to tell them to stop writing boring stuff encourage them, and we had a great discussion about how to make the column more personal and interesting for readers. And they were doing a bang-up job with the resuscitated “Ask FSA Andy.”
Then, somewhere up the food chain, someone heard about this rogue group of FSA columnists who were submitting timely and important information without getting it vetted from on high — and the long arm of the USDA communication team flexed.
Rather than kowtow to Washington censorship, the team has opted to end the column.
I would personally like to thank the USDA FSA county directors who have been dedicated FSA Andy writers, whether it’s been for one year or 25. I hope readers realize the concern these individuals have for “their farmers,” and know they’re still available to answer questions and lend guidance. They are unsung cogs in the great wheel of the agricultural community, all working together to keep farmers successful. Thank you.
It’s been a good run. R.I.P. Andy.
Farm and Dairy Editor