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, FSA State Executive Director for Louisiana:
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.
FSA Greene/Sumter County Office staff (from l to r) Alex Crawford, Stella Lee-Anderson, Mary Braggs.
With a combined total of 2,655 producers served, the Greene/Sumter County Farm Service Agency County Office in Alabama is always on its toes ready to assist. Greene County is highly populated with catfish, timber and beef cattle. Other crops include cotton, soybeans, shrimp and corn. Next door is Sumter County. Known for its beef, catfish, forestry and forages, nearly 70 percent of Sumter County’s 921 square miles is forested. True to rural America, most of its residents rely on agriculture as a main source of income.
The Greene/Sumter County FSA welcomed a new county executive director last December. Alex Crawford, III, began his career with the agency six years ago as a program technician. For a short time he was county executive director in Mobile and was then transferred to the Montgomery State Office as a management and program analyst in 2010.
Illinois field office director Brad Schwab examines a field of early planted corn in central Illinois. (NASS)
Of the many factors that make farming risky, weather is particularly important. With this year’s unseasonably warm March, some farmers are taking a risk they hope pays off in a big way. Despite the peril of a spring frost, many farmers are planting corn almost a month earlier than the usual mid-April planting dates. As they wait to see what happens with the weather, these farmers, along with analysts, policymakers and others interested in U.S. agriculture, will pay close attention to the Crop Progress report issued weekly by USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. Read more (USDA blog).
Producers have one day left to sign up for the Conservation Reserve Program. CRP is a voluntary program available to agricultural producers to help them use environmentally sensitive land for conservation benefits. Producers enrolled in CRP plant long-term, resource-conserving covers to improve the quality of water, control soil erosion and develop wildlife habitat. In return, USDA provides participants with rental payments and cost-share assistance. Those interested must submit an application by April 13. Read more.
In an effort to protect public health and promote the use of medically important antibiotics in food-producing animals, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued three documents to help farmers judiciously use antibiotics to only address diseases and health problems in these animal. Based on an FDA press release, this voluntary initiative would not allow antibiotics to be used to enhance the growth or improve feed efficiency in an animal. Antibiotics would still be available to prevent, control or treat illnesses in food-producing animals under the supervision of a veterinarian. Read more.
Giant miscanthus in early stages of growth. The sterile grass plant will grow to heights of 8-12 feet. When harvested, giant miscanthus can be compacted into pellets for a durable, safe and environmentally friendly renewable energy source.
by Kent Politsch, Chief, FSA Public Affairs
There’s a lot that a farmer can grow in northeast Arkansas. Most producers choose rice and cotton. Some plant soybeans, corn and sorghum; row crops, mostly, according to Charles Glover, manager, Ritter Agribusiness.
Glover works with landowners, their tenants and producers who farm 40,000 acres between Jonesboro, Ark., and Memphis, Tenn., much of it in Poinsett County.
Poinsett County, says Glover, is the second leading rice producing county in the United States.
Flooding along the Missouri River last year is still having an impact on farmers as they work to clear out acres of debris and restore fields for spring planting. According to Eddie Hamill, state executive director, Missouri Farm Service Agency, farmers may give up between 10 and 25 percent of the flooded land this year. In Missouri alone, 207,000 acres of farmland was flooded, costing farmers nearly $10 million in lost crops. The river hit historic levels after melting snow and heavy rains inundated upstream reservoirs, causing the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers to release the reservoirs into the Missouri River. Read more (Associated Press).
Producers now have more time to sign up for the Conservation Reserve Program. A high demand of enrollment and re-enrollment applications has caused USDA to extend the deadline to April 13. "Due to strong interest in CRP, the decision was made to extend CRP sign-up 43 for an additional week. I encourage all eligible farmers and ranchers to take advantage of this opportunity to participate in CRP,” said FSA Administrator Bruce Nelson. The extension will give farmers and ranchers ample time to review their offers.CRP is a voluntary program available to agricultural producers to help them use environmentally sensitive land for conservation benefits. Producers enrolled in CRP plant long-term, resource-conserving covers to improve the quality of water, control soil erosion and develop wildlife habitat. In return, USDA provides participants with rental payments and cost-share assistance. Read more.
About $10 million in grants being made available to farmers markets, community supported agriculture and roadside stands. According to an April 6 Federal Register notice, the grants, which are administered by the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service, will assist in developing, promoting and expanding direct marketing of agricultural commodities from farmers to consumers. Applications must be submitted online at www.grants.gov no later than May 21, 2012. Learn more.