The mission of USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) is to equitably serve all farmers, ranchers, and agricultural partners through the delivery of effective, efficient agricultural programs for all of us in the U.S. This includes administering credit and loan programs, conservation programs, disaster recovery programs, and farm marketing programs through a national network of offices.
But for many farmers — especially farmers of color or those not farming commodities on a large scale — the idea of working with FSA can bring up feelings of anxiety, skepticism, or distrust.
On April 12 RAFI-USA held a webinar about how and why to work with your local FSA office. We covered what an FSA office can do for farmers, how to prepare for an FSA office visit, and how to troubleshoot when you have problems or questions.
We were joined by farmer panelists who shared their experiences and advice for working with FSA offices.
4:00 – 28:00: RAFI-USA Presentation: basics of the FSA
31:00 – 36:00: Presenter Introductions:
36:00 – 43:00: Presenter experience with the FSA
44:00 – 50:00: How presenters work with the FSA and preparing for FSA meetings
50:30 – 55:00: Benefits of working with the FSA
55:00 – 1:01:00: Challenges of working with the FSA and advocating for yourself
1:01:30 – 1:07:00: Advice for farmers working with the FSA
1:08:00 – end: Audience Questions and closing
Here is some of the practical advice that RAFI staff and our panelists shared:
Why contact the FSA?
- Get your questions answered and learn what programs you are eligible for
- Build a relationship with your local office before you have an emergency (such as crop loss or a natural disaster)
- Vote for or get elected to the FSA county office
What should I do first?
- Find your local FSA office (LINK), and call to make an appointment. You don’t need a specific reason to make an appointment – you can simply say you want to learn more about the FSA and their programs
- Prepare for your visit: look at programs and come to your meeting with a list of questions and some basic information about your farm
- Apply for a Farm Number (LINK): if you don’t yet have one, a great first step is visiting the office to get a farm number. You will need a farm number to apply for most FSA programs.
- Sign up for text or email updates from your local office
How can I work successfully with the FSA?
- Follow up and be proactive! Stay on top of deadlines yourself and don’t be afraid to call back to check on the status of your application or ask for more information.
- Request a receipt for service whenever you visit the FSA office.
- Do your own research: read whatever you can find about FSA programs and have a list of questions for your meetings. If the staff member you talk to does not have the answer, ask who else in the office would know.
- Advocate for yourself: if you believe the office has made the wrong decision, you can appeal the decision or ask for more information.
- Contact an ally: if you are having issues with your FSA office or have further questions, get in touch with RAFI-USA Resources for Resilient Farms.
This material is based upon work supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, under agreement number FSA21CPT0011944.