By Brenda Carlson, Public Affairs Specialist, FSA Office of External Affairs
U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency (FSA) Administrator Val Dolcini and members of his leadership team joined more than 9,000 producers, industry representatives and agricultural media during the 2016 Commodity Classic in New Orleans March 3-5.
Commodity Classic is America’s largest farmer-led, farmer-focused convention and tradeshow, produced by the National Corn Growers Association, American Soybean Association, National Association of Wheat Growers, National Sorghum Producers and this year, the Association of Equipment Manufacturers joined the event.
During the course of the three-day event, Administrator Dolcini and staff attended nearly 20 commodity state caucus, delegate and board meetings where attendees received Farm Bill implementation updates and FSA leadership addressed producer concerns and fielded questions regarding FSA’s extensive portfolio of risk management, safety-net and credit programs. And, Administrator Dolcini took every opportunity to announce new technology that FSA is offering to improve federal farm program efficiencies for farmers and ranchers.
In fact, the Commodity Classic proved to be the perfect venue to unveil FSAfarm+, an online customer service portal that allows owners and operators to access their stored FSA data, such as maps, field boundaries; land use data including acres, crop, bases and ARC/PLC yields and more. Producers can now access this information from a home or business computer anytime – day or night.
FSA staff provided real-time demonstrations of the new online customer service tool during the tradeshow where feedback from producers was overwhelmingly positive and enthusiastic. Even Agriculture Secretary Vilsack stopped by the FSA booth to take a look at FSAfarm+ and offer his appreciation for FSA’s efforts in improving USDA online options for producers.
Administrator Dolcini wrapped up his time in The Big Easy with a tour of Recirculating Farms Coalition (RFC), an urban ag organization in New Orleans that recently received a USDA Grant. One of the many projects RFC offers is a community garden consisting of raised beds for community members to use for growing their own food if they have no space at home and a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) venture offering members in-season, locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables year-round. RFC also has a number of demonstration projects and they provide hands-on experiences and training in all facets of urban agriculture – raising chickens, composting, recycling, hydroponics, aquaculture, etc.
As the locals say in Louisiana, between the experiences at Commodity Classic and his urban ag tours, Administrator Dolcini’s visit to New Orleans was rife with lagniappe (lan-yap)–a little something extra; an unexpected, pleasant surprise.