HURON, S.D. — Like most family farmers and ranchers Zach Ducheneaux understands what it’s like when profits are tight. To emphasize this point, the Farm Service Agency Administrator and fourth-generation South Dakota rancher shared this story with Farmers Union members during the talk he gave during the organization’s State Convention.
“Growing up a child of the farm financial crisis, I remember one day, walking through the old junk pile and seeing Dad picking up a tire and looking at it and picking up another one and comparing them. We were trying to find the best, worst tire so we could put it on the pickup and go to town to see if we could get Mr. Butler to extend credit.”
Ducheneaux went on to share that he remains concerned about ag finance and from the day he accepted the appointment, he has worked for change. “Ag finance is broken. We will not have different outcomes if we keep doing the same as we have,” Ducheneaux said. “We did not fix anything, just duct tape and baling wire. It’s getting ready to unravel.”
Although there are no simple solutions, Ducheneaux said under his leadership, farmers and ranchers should know that he is working for change. “The crux of all FSA programs should boil down to, ‘are we empowering our producers to have a choice at the end of a production year?’”
Following his talk, Ducheneaux opened the floor up to questions. More than one member asked him about taking a more proactive approach to disaster funding. Ducheneaux responded, “We are looking toward that and streamlining access to funds.”
Throughout his talk, Ducheneaux emphasized more than once that if a program does not work for members, they need to let him know. He answers his own email: email@example.com.
Ducheneaux’s talk was followed by another South Dakotan, Risk Management Agency Administrator Marcia Bunger.
Only a month into her new position, Bunger said she has a lot to learn, but she is up to the task. She made a point to let members know she is working to ensure field staff take the time to explain all options to farmers and ranchers. “The task I am going to place upon agents is that no one should be left behind. Not only does crop insurance mitigate losses, but crop insurance is a tool to market grain.”
Bunger also made it clear that when farmers and ranchers seek U.S. Department of Agriculture assistance, “It is for everyone. This is not a farm subsidy; this is a consumer subsidy. Nowhere in the world can you find as cheap, as safe, as plentiful food as in the U.S.”
Ducheneaux and Bunger were among many thought leaders to address members during the 2021 South Dakota Farmers Union Convention held in December. To learn more about South Dakota Farmers Union visit, www.sdfu.org.