FCS Diversity and Inclusion - PROPOSED RULE - MARCH 2011 Dear Mr. Van Meter,
I appreciate the opportunity to comment on the role of the FCA in supporting small and mid-sized farmers and producers. As an active consumer and supporter of local regional farms, I hope that my comment and other like it will help guide the FCA towards diversifying it's portfolio and services such that small and mid-sized farmers are better served.
I have worked on a number of small farms, and hope someday to manage one of my own. Thus far in my farming experience and my aquantaince with many local farmers, I have yet to meet a small farmer who has been able to take advantage of loans from the FCS. I believe this to be for a number of reasons, but principle among those: I don't think the FCS is currently designed to well serve this constituency. The terms and benefits of the lending and business support products are not geared towards small operations, the staff is not well trained to know the particular needs of small to mid-sized farmers, and the FCS board does not have adequate (any?) representation from small local and regional food producers.
I believe that small and mid-sized producers play a vitally important role not just in our local communities and food systems, but also within our local economies. The boost the local economy buy buying (inputs, machinery, etc) and selling locally. They also provide more living wage jobs than their large scale counterparts (which often rely on poorly paid immigrant labor). And, since new and socially disadvantaged farmers are more likely to run smaller scale operations than large ones (at least initially), better support of these operations from the FCA would help cultivate a more diverse farming community in our nation. I know that the USDA under Secretary VIlsack has been working actively to change it's track record when it comes to diversity and discrimination, and the FCA, in better serving small and mid-sized farmers could help to further this effort.
I appreciate your consideration and work around this issue.