The Federal Farm Service Agency (Federal FSA) is one among various agencies functioning under the U.S. Department of agriculture. It was set up in 1995 pursuant to the reorganization of the department of agriculture in 1994.
Several previously existent agencies like the Agricultural Adjustment Administration, War Food Administration, Production and Marketing Administration, and Commodity Stabilization Service were merged to form the Federal FSA. Also, the programs carried on by several agencies like the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service, the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation, and the Farmers Home Administration were incorporated into the Federal FSA. The Federal Crop Insurance Corporation later became the Risk Management Agency.
The federal FSA is is also performing the functions of the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service (ASCS) because the ASCS merged into the Federal FSA.
Although the Federal FSA was set up only in 1995, the functions were performed before by other agencies with different names and the farmers were availing themselves of the assistance of those agencies. At the start, various agricultural or farming programs were carried out locally. For that purpose, committees were elected by the farmers themselves. This early system developed over time into the present functioning of the FSA.
The organizational structure of Federal FSA is laid out by Congress. The federal FSA comprises of an Administrator, Associate Administrators for Programs and Operations, Deputy Administrators – Programs and Operations, Division Directors within different Programs and Operations, Branch Chiefs, Section Chiefs, and Managers.
Each state has an FSA which is led by a State Executive Director. Executive Directors are usually politically appointed persons. Farm policy is implemented through FSA programs by the offices based in the states and counties.
The main function of the federal FSA is the implementation of laws relating to farm conservation and regulation existing in the U.S. The federal FSA has an administrator who reports to the Under Secretary of Agriculture for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services.
The responsibilities of the federal FSA are classified in to five areas.
- Farm Programs;
- Farm Loans;
- Commodity Operations
- Management; and
- State Operations.
The federal FSA provides assistance to farmers in the U.S. through a strong and safe administration of various farm commodity programs. The federal FSA puts into service various disaster programs to support the farmers to whom loss occurred due to natural disasters. The Emergency Conservation Program (ECP) is an example of a disaster program. The Emergency Conservation Program provides emergency funding and technical assistance for farmers and ranchers to rehabilitate farmland damaged by natural disasters and to carry out emergency water conservation measures during severe drought.
Also, there are conservation reserve programs for conserving the natural resources of the country. An example of this kind of program is the Unique Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP). Under this program, incentive payments are granted for installing specific conservation practices that help protect environmentally sensitive land, decrease erosion, restore wildlife habitat, and safeguard ground and surface water.
The Federal FSA provides credit to agriculturists who are not able to avail themselves of private or commercial loans. It is one of the important services among the various services provided by the federal FSA. Priority is given to newcomers in the field of farming who cannot avail themselves of conventional loans because they have insufficient financial resources. Female and minority farmers as well as ranchers are given priority. These loans can be used to purchase land, livestock, equipment, feed, seeds, and other supplies. Also, it can be used to construct buildings or make farm improvements. The federal FSA helps established farmers also, who have suffered loss from natural disasters, or whose resources are too limited to carry on profitable farming operations.
The Commodity Operations division of the Federal FSA purchases and delivers commodities for use in humanitarian programs in the country. There are programs that provide food to the school children. Also, there are programs that are designed to feed the hungry, needy, and poor around the world. The commodity operations division purchases products made by disabled persons and thus support them. It also supports domestic farm commodity programs through accurate price discovery of program crops and provides expertise in the development and delivery of safe and nutritious food assistance products. The Commodity Operations division of the federal FSA administers the U.S. Warehouse Act.