FAQ: Our county FSA office has switched from mailing a monthly printed newsletter to sending the newsletter electronically via email. Are all counties in Iowa doing this?
Answer: USDA's Farm Service Agency offers several options for electronic communication with its farmer clients. Due to continual budget constraints, gone for now are the days of a hardcopy FSA newsletter sent to each producer's roadside mailbox or post office box. Although this may come as disappointing news for some, FSA considers the move to electronic communication an important advancement in customer service.
John Whitaker, state executive director at the Iowa FSA office in Des Moines, provides the following answers to frequently asked questions from producers regarding FSA's new communication options.
Whitaker says, "We completely understand and respect that there are circumstances in which a producer may not want to or may not be able to communicate electronically with FSA. Our electronic communications options are strictly for the convenience of the producer and are meant to enhance the customer experience you have with FSA."
He adds, "None of these options are meant to replace the opportunities you have to interact with our knowledgeable and capable state and county office staff. But we also believe we have an obligation to provide producers with the tools they want in order to insure they stay informed and educated on all FSA policies and programs; electronic communication options are simply value-added tools for FSA's customer service 'toolbox.'"
Question: What FSA electronic communications options are currently available to producers?
Answer: There are several options for staying electronically connected with FSA.
- GovDelivery: Farmers and ranchers can receive free online communications through the FSA GovDelivery electronic news service. News can be sent via email to your home, office or smartphone, providing immediate notification of farm program news. To subscribe to this service, contact your local FSA office or visit the FSA website.
- AskFSA: This is a knowledge base with FAQs on a range of FSA-related topics. Visitors to AskFSA will find the most highly asked questions at the top of the page. If an answer to a question can't be found, users can search for possible answers or send an email to an FSA expert. AskFSA is available online 24-hours a day, seven days a week.
- Other: Producers can elect to receive additional information regarding their operation electronically through our protected and/or encrypted electronic information distribution system. These communications may include information on reconstitutions and soon, acreage reports and other FSA program information. Producers must provide FSA with permission before this information will be released electronically.
Question: Why is it important for producers to pay close attention to electronic correspondence from FSA?
Answer: FSA considers the move to electronic communication an important advancement in customer service. A farmer's workday doesn't always correspond with FSA hours of operation. FSA electronic communications will be limited so as not to overwhelm, but are nonetheless important. This includes information on new programs, approaching deadlines, farm credit opportunities, disaster designations -- information to help farmers and ranchers make informed, timely business decisions.
Question: What if I'm not comfortable with or don't have the technology (computer, Internet access, etc.) available to me to receive information electronically from FSA?
Answer: Electronic communications are optional and are designed to enhance the customer experience in addition to opportunities to interact with state and county office staff.
Question: Why is FSA incorporating increased electronic communications into the agency's operating practices?
Answer: Because agriculture is a 24-hour a day, seven day a week industry, FSA wants to ensure that our information is readily available. According to USDA's latest estimate of farm computer use and ownership, released in August 2013, 70% of U.S. farms have access to a computer and nearly three-quarters of farms with top sales are using a computer for farm business. With more farmers using technology, whether it's precision farming, GPS or apps for managing irrigation wells, FSA is working to ensure its program delivery evolves to meet the high standards of customer service our farm owners and operators deserve.