April 16, 2012, was a memorable day for Willie F. Cooper, state executive director (SED) for the Louisiana Farm Service Agency. Yesterday marked 40 years as SED for FSA and the former Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service (ASCS). In August, Cooper will celebrate 55 years of total service to USDA. Prior to his appointment, Cooper had worked as a field reporter, county office trainee, county executive director, county office reviewer, assistant administrative chief and chief of the Administrative Division. Recently, he provided some thoughts and memories on his tenure.
From Willie F. Cooper:
Many people ask why I am still working. I cannot give a good answer to that question. I guess I must enjoy it and enjoy the challenge. I have been blessed with the privilege of working with some wonderful employees, state committee members, farm groups, and the Louisiana Congressional delegation. And I have seen the many benefits that FSA has provided to producers throughout the years.
My appointment as state executive director on April 16, 1972, is probably the most significant occurrence in my career. This gave a country boy in a graduating class of 13 (10 girls and 3 boys) an opportunity to be exposed to many important people, including presidents, secretaries, many assistant secretaries, administrators, commissioners of agriculture, and many others. It provided the opportunity to work with many outstanding farm organization leaders and I have benefitted greatly from many, many dedicated employees.
My wife and children have had the greatest influence on my life because I have always had a wonderful home to go to after a good or bad day. Also, my church has always been extremely important to me and my family.
I have always felt that regardless of who I was working for, if at the end of the day when I laid my head on my pillow, I could say I had given my farmers, supervisors and employees the best I had to offer, it was a good day.
The most difficult day of my career occurred in 1973 when we had to separate 74 people because of reduced personnel ceilings. Some of the most enjoyable experiences are when we were able to provide invaluable assistance to producers that substantially enhanced their farming operation and their family. Another enjoyment would be seeing employees learning new programs that would assist our producers and socializing after a hard day’s work. A family atmosphere is extremely important to a well run organization.
During my tenure, the biggest change in farming has been the unbelievable technology and advancements in all aspects of farming. I think this trend will continue; however, I believe a Farm Bill that provides protection due to disasters from production or economic losses, including loan programs, is a must if we are to continue to be the best fed nation at the cheapest percent of our take home pay. I hope the general population can fully realize the important benefits provided by our producers. Don’t forget about the other benefits our producers provide, such as exports, balance of trade and the overall economic contributions made by agriculture.