Later this week, state Farm Service Agency Executive Directors will be gathering in Washington D.C. to meet with federal F.S.A. and U.S.D.A officials. The topic of discussion will be how to best improve customer service and how best to streamline F.S.A. operations. Among those participating in the discussions of the proposal, entitled "F.S.A. Tomorrow", is Oregon State F.S.A. Executive Director Larry Frey.
FREY: "F.S.A. Tomorrow" is really a review of F.S.A.'s organizational structure. "F.S.A. Tomorrow" is F.S.A.'s effort I guess to position the agency for the future as well as the best way to continue F.S.A.'s tradition of customer service.
So what does that mean to customers if the agency moves forward with plans to implement "F.S.A. Tomorrow"? Frey says the whole purpose of the proposal is to improve customer service, starting with better equipment for use at the local level.
FREY: Implementing this will allow the agency to update its technology, provide training to improve employee skill sets, and to streamline program delivery, you know, on our local levels. And that's an important thing in today's view of agriculture and that sort of thing, we need to improve in those areas.
And U.S.D.A. Deputy Secretary Chuck Connor can vouch for the need to improve F.S.A. local offices from a technological standpoint.
CONNOR: One of the key reasons is the computer software that we are using for the processing of a large portion of these payments is twenty years old. In computer terms, that is the Ice Age, and we need to upgrade that system.
Connor also insists the main objective of "F.S.A. Tomorrow" is meeting customer needs in a more timely fashion, and not cutting costs to F.S.A. Having said that, there are concerns by some that there could be some reductions in service, based on published news reports that U.S.D.A. is considering the consolidation and / or closure of as many as 655 local F.S.A. offices across the U.S. One of those is Bob Young of the American Farm Bureau Federation.
YOUNG: Some of this may just be again kind of internal workings and let's kind of see what happens at the back end.
The only official word that closures are a possibility is briefings by U.S.D.A. Under Secretary J.B. Penn to Congressional leaders. Currently, there is no timeline for implementation of "F.S.A. Tomorrow", although Frey and other state leaders say there could be one by as early as this week's meeting.