USDA's Bill Northey Says Technology Has Allowed The Agency to Succeed During This Challenging TimeFri, 20 Nov 2020 11:31:54 CST
The unique challenges brought on by the pandemic has actually created some efficiency opportunities said Bill Northey, USDA Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation.
Northey was interviewed via Zoom by Radio Oklahoma Agriculture Network Associate Farm Director and Editor KC Sheperd.
Surviving 2020 has been important especially for NRCS staff, Northey said. Being able to manage while out of the office with all the challenges we got a lot of conservation on the ground, Northey said.
In fact, we’re at or ahead of where we were in previous years, he said.
Collaborating with other federal agencies has also been key to managing program implementation.
We’re working with friends at EPA and Corp of Engineers in the water “sub cabinet” that we formalized several months ago, Northey said.
Technology has allowed the agencies to communicate and roll out programs in a timely, efficient manner, he said.
We’re getting closer to the deadline Dec. 11 for CFAP round 2, Northey said.
We had to put rules together fast and get staff trained, he said.
We moved about $10 billion out to producers in CFAP round 1 and close to $14 billion in round 2, he said.
We were often working from our homes and farms much of the time and talking to folks quickly online so in some ways we have learned to be more efficient, Northey said.
The USDA official said they learned to make the system more efficient.
We need to make this easy and quick because farmers don’t have time to stand at the counter for an hour and half, Northey said.
Technology is important for implementing programs but also for running a farm business, placing the spotlight on the need to improve access to high speed internet in rural areas.
The USDA’s ReConnect program has been successful in getting broadband to more rural areas, he said.
It’s not solved yet as we have a lot of work to do, Northey said.
Northey added the attention and engagement we have put on this issue has kept it on the front burner.
Farmers need high speed Internet now more than ever, he said.
Northey equates high speed internet access with the time 80 or 90 years ago when electricity was brought to rural areas.
Our farms are already high-tech operations and we need to make sure we keep our crops and animals in good shape, so we need that technology, Northey emphasized.
Looking ahead, the USDA official said they will start off 2021 with CRP sign up beginning Jan. 4.
Crop insurance and ARC/PLC sign up continues and hopefully there will not be a need for more ad hoc government payments, Northey said.
You can click on the listen bar below to hear more of KC’s interview with Bill Northey.
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