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North Dakota Ag News Headlines
Inadequate Compensation for USDA Farm Service Agency Staff Hampers Farmer Services
North Dakota Ag Connection - 06/01/2023

The level of wages received by USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) staff in North Dakota is causing a ripple effect that compromises the services offered to farmers, warns Marcy Svenningsen, North Dakota FSA state executive director. Despite the dedicated efforts of the current FSA staff, the shortage of personnel leads to reduced technical assistance provided to farmers, impeding their operations.

The North Dakota Ag Coalition, consisting of 48 agricultural organizations in the state, has expressed concerns over the lack of FSA workers and its potential impact on farmers. They have urged the federal government, including North Dakota Senator Kevin Cramer, to examine the compensation packages for county FSA employees. The coalition emphasizes the importance of offering competitive salaries and benefits to attract and retain skilled talent, ensuring a stable workforce in these crucial positions.

Svenningsen highlights that the shortage of skilled workers in FSA positions is not unique to North Dakota, as it is a nationwide issue. The FSA serves as the face of USDA in county offices, underscoring the significance of having these positions filled with competent individuals.

The wages for FSA county staff significantly lag behind those offered in similar private sector jobs, resulting in numerous unfilled positions throughout the state. Approximately 10% of the 300 FSA jobs in North Dakota remain vacant due to the lack of qualified applicants. Starting salaries for FSA technicians range from $34,000 to $37,000 annually, with the higher end reserved for candidates with a four-year college degree.

The disparity in wages not only deters qualified candidates from applying but also encourages existing employees, who are not long-term staff members, to seek higher-paying opportunities in the private sector. This loss of expertise affects the quality of service provided to farmers and makes it challenging to retain skilled individuals in FSA positions.

The inadequate compensation for USDA Farm Service Agency staff poses a serious threat to the expertise and quality of support available to farmers. Addressing this issue and ensuring competitive wages will be crucial to attracting and retaining skilled individuals in FSA positions, ultimately benefiting the agricultural community.

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