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FSA programs explained: Going green

I can’t say that I am the most technologically advanced person around. I can get around on a computer and I have a couple e-mail accounts. I was not the first person to own a cellular phone. I don’t have a smart phone, although my basic phone is smarter than I am and I have no idea of how to text. Although I am sure that I will have to learn when my kids get their first phone, but that shouldn’t be any time soon.

If you are like me and resistant to the use of technology, let me ask you to consider turning on your computer in order to do business with the Farm Service Agency in keeping updated on current program changes as well as keeping in contact with the Program Technicians working on your program application.

Everywhere I turn, I notice that government agencies and businesses are turning to technology to conduct business and to save money, but utilizing technology to save on costs only works when your customers are using that same technology. The technology that the South Dakota FSA would like to use more frequently is the use of electronic mail or e-mail. I know that, to many, it may seem that we are asking you to start using the wheel, but you would be surprised at how many farmers and ranchers do not use e-mail. I can understand, since I don’t even know how to text using my phone.

The reason the FSA is making the push for use of e-mail for day-to-day business with producers is two-fold. The first reason for using e-mail is personalization of information. The Farm Service Agency has a “Go Green” initiative in which anyone with an e-mail account can sign up to receive program information via e-mail. A person simply provides their e-mail address and selects the information they would like to receive. This information can vary from interest rates to crop disaster programs updates to conservation program updates. Any time there is a program change or update, the user will receive information about the program via e-mail. This is a great way to stay up to date on FSA programs that you may be interested in participating or may be currently participating. You may sign up for the “Go Green” initiative located on the South Dakota Farm Service Agency Web site at http://www.fsa.usda.gov under “State Offices.”

The second reason for FSA’s push for the use of e-mail is cost savings. The FSA is continuing to provide access to farm programs while maintaining fiscal responsibility. With the current budget cuts this year and expected in the upcoming year, the men and women of FSA are doing more with less. Utilizing technology will help us to accomplish this task.

Each FSA Service Center is a little different in how they conduct business. In Meade County, SD, we have always tried to reduce the burden of traveling to the Service Center through the use of the Post Office. However, in an effort to save costs, we are moving away from the correspondence by mail to only essential mailings. In order to reduce the burden of travel on the producer, we are hoping to be able to e-mail documents that would have normally been sent by mail. Producers that do not have access to e-mail will need to schedule a visit with the FSA office on their next trip into town.

I cannot speak for every FSA office in terms of how they will be implementing cost savings, but I am confident that all offices will be looking for cost savings measures. Corresponding through the use of e-mail is an easy way that everyone can participate in cost saving measures.

james neill is the county executive director for the farm service agency in meade county, sd and can be contacted at james.neill@sd.usda.gov. questions about the “go green” initiative or any other farm service agency program should be directed to your local farm service agency service center.


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