The honor of a lifetime

(Journal stock photo.)

It is the honor of a lifetime to have been appointed by the Biden-Harris administration as the State Executive Director of the USDA Farm Service Agency in Nebraska. As the SED, I am responsible for overseeing the implementation of federal farm policy through a network of 71 USDA Service Centers across the state. I am proud of the work of our FSA employees, and I am grateful for the privilege of serving Nebraska’s agriculture producers and industry stakeholders in our state, where one in four jobs is tied to agriculture.

The mission of FSA is personal for me. One of my earliest memories is preparing for an auction of our farm in the early 1980s, as our family operation fell victim to the farm crisis that struck so many farmers across the country. My interest in agriculture policy grew from that day, and over the past 25 years of my career, I have come to believe that agriculture policy and programs, many administered through FSA, are key ingredients to improving the economic vitality of rural Nebraska and ultimately the entire country.

I am particularly proud of the work we do in three important areas for Nebraska. First, FSA offers financing for farmers and ranchers to begin, expand or maintain their operations. These financing tools are offered through direct loans when a customer cannot secure commercial credit and guaranteed loans where we work in partnership with a commercial lender. Second, FSA administers disaster programs to alleviate some of the financial pressure associated with recovering from damage brought on by extreme weather events due to a changing climate. These programs have been a valuable tool to ensure those impacted by drought, flood, wildfires, and the like are able to regroup and rebuild. Finally, FSA manages a conservation program portfolio that not only protects natural resources, but also enhances water quantity and quality and mitigates the effects of a changing climate.

The Biden-Harris Administration is prioritizing investment in rural America in a profound way. The American Rescue Plan infused billions of dollars into states like Nebraska to keep the economy moving, while providing important support for families as they navigated the pandemic. The Administration was the first in decades to pass an often-promised bipartisan infrastructure bill that will invest a trillion dollars into necessary infrastructure improvements, from roads, bridges, and locks and dams that help move our products to market, to rural broadband needed to compete in the 21st Century. Modernizing these important systems will make our state’s economy more competitive and improve resiliency, while providing high-paying jobs for those implementing the improvements.

I am excited to be a part of this Administration because after several attempts over the past several Administrations, agriculture has an important seat at the table to work to mitigate climate change through voluntary, incentive-based programs. Nebraska’s farmers and ranchers are the best stewards of the land, and in partnership with USDA, we can build resiliency and address climate change through carbon capture with cover cropping, improved tillage practices, precision agriculture, and utilization of improved irrigation management technology. What an exciting time to be involved in production agriculture, producing food and fiber and helping to solve climate change all at the same time.

Nebraska Farm Service Agency offices are located in our rural communities to be near the customers we serve. To find a local office, visit Staff are ready to greet you with more information about any of our programs. I also encourage you to reach out to me with any thoughts, suggestions or questions.

—John Berge is the newly appointed state executive director of the Nebraska USDA Farm Service Agency.