A blueprint guides the decisions of an entire team of craftspeople toward a common goal of creating something that serves a purpose and withstands time and the elements. Over several decades now, U.S. agriculture has become the second most-productive sector of our economy. Today, net farm income is at record levels while farm debt has been cut in half. Overall, American agriculture supports 1 in 12 jobs in the United States and provides American consumers with 83 percent of the food we consume. In other words, U.S. agriculture is both resilient and a productive economic driver.
While America’s farmers, ranchers and growers are the primary architects of U.S. agriculture’s success, there is large team in place that helps to drive the success of our agriculture industry, and USDA’s Farm Service Agency is a proud member of that team. And FSA’s guide in building a more modern, efficient service organization that is closely in tune with the long-term vitality of rural America is the Blueprint for Stronger Service.
FSA works with Congress and stakeholders to design and implement policies and guideposts that strengthen and secure food, fiber and renewable energy for America. We offer assistance when disasters strike; loans when credit is hard to acquire elsewhere; incentives to conserve and foster stewardship of the nation’s natural resources; and food assistance when our friends and neighbors—both at home and abroad—need it most.
These responsibilities take skilled and resourceful people and a network of state and county offices strategically placed throughout rural America.
In a challenging budget climate, FSA continues to find new and more efficient ways to deliver services to all farmers and ranchers based on our blueprint. Technology and modern conveniences are replacing long and frequent treks over gravel roads. Computers, email and smart phones are making information instantaneous. These modern tools are helping rural America solve problems faster, get answers quicker and stay competitive in a rapidly changing business environment.
Innovation and visionary ideas are a hallmark of USDA. They began when Abraham Lincoln founded the department in 1862. He recognized the importance of a reliable, sustainable food and agriculture system to the health of the nation. He recognized that stable production of food and fiber contributed to freedom and independence. And he recognized how our food and agriculture system touches the lives of all Americans, every day.
The capabilities of farmers and ranchers have changed in the past 150 years. Today, American agriculture applies the latest in technology and achieves a nearly unparalleled level of productivity, contributes to a homegrown supply of renewable energy, and is helping establish a biobased economy that creates products from farm grown plants rather than chemicals or petroleum bases.
FSA supports rural America in these and many other efforts. And no government agency takes more pride in the work it does to help beginners in this trade, helping to attract the smartest, hardest-working young people in the nation. In fact, in just the past two years, more than 40 percent of FSA’s farm loans went to beginning farmers and ranchers (BFRs). Since 2008, the number of loans to BFRs has climbed from 9,000 to 15,000. At the same time, USDA and FSA are creating a modern Department, attuned to 21st century agricultural challenges and reflective of the values and needs of the broad range of Americans we serve, where every farmer and rancher knows he or she is welcome.
That is the meaning of the People’s Department. And the Blueprint for Stronger Service is our guide in getting there.