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A Country Boy’s Journey

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.

Willie F. Cooper, state executive director (SED) for the Louisiana Farm Service Agency

Willie F. Cooper, state executive director (SED) for the Louisiana Farm Service Agency

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.

5 Responses to “A Country Boy’s Journey”

  1. Clara M. Moore says:

    Mr. Cooper it has been a pleasure working with you over the past 40 years, I hope your next 40 will be as great as those pasted. Congratulations and Best Wishes

  2. Clara Ruth Saint says:

    I can’t think of a person that I admire more than Willie Cooper! In my 30 years with ASCS and FSA, he allowed me more opportunities to improve myself than I could ever imagine! I can never thank Willie enough for allowing me the chance to experience some of the great opportunities to serve not only our farmers,but also our fellow employees! Yes, we may be called a lot of names as Federal employees charged with administering farm programs, but as Willie boasts, we were (are) foremost family!!!

  3. Val Dolcini says:

    Willie — You’ve been an inspiration to your entire, far-flung, USDA family. All the best to you and the family and congratulations on your many years of successful public service on behalf of Louisianans and the nation.

    Val Dolcini
    California SED

  4. Travis Womack says:

    Well,Wille is this the last hurrah’s? I think not, so what can I say except that like all the other CED’s current and past it has been my pleasure to have served under your guidance. What a great day it was when you came to USDA-ASCS and what a legalese you have left. I look forward to attending you retirement party,after all it will just be the family getting back together one more time

  5. Bill Harshaw says:

    Surviving through the administrations of both parties is a measure of his work.

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