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USDA sees how programs help local farmers

United States Department of Agriculture officials and local USDA Farm Service Agents visited a local farm to observe first-hand how farm loans have benefited local agricultural operations.

The officials visited the family farm of Mikeal and Rhonda Thompson and son, Justin Thompson, Tuesday. The Thompson farm is located on Williams Road in Franklinton.

USDA Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden got a walking tour of the farm and saw how the Thompsons used a micro-loan to purchase a $28,000 hay bale wrapper to cut down on wasted hay.

The Thompsons have 27 acres of their own and lease 400 acres. The farm has 150 cows.

“It’s just to get on the land and see how our programs are actually used and benefit farmers like Justin and his family,” Harden said. “Having grown up on a mom and pop peanut farm in southwest Georgia, knowing that passion for the farm motivates me. It’s all about caring for your resources. Approximately 99 percent of the U.S. population doesn’t understand what us 1 percent do. We want to keep the farmers on the farm and the ranchers on the ranch.”

Justin Thompson thanked Harden for the agency’s support.

“The micro-loan helped us,” Thompson said. “We were able to purchase equipment, which added value to our operation.”

Before acquiring the loan, Thompson said much of the hay was left to spoil unprotected.

“We stored the hay outside before the micro-loan,” Thompson said. “Wrapping the hay protects it. We wrap the baleage hay and sileage. We went from 30 percent waste to 0 percent waste using the Tube Line Wrapper. We were also able to purchase another 50 head.

Officials who also visited the farm included State Executive Director, USDA Farm Service Agency, Craig McCain, State Conservationist, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Kevin Norton, State Director of USDA Rural Development Clarence Hawkins, District Conservationist for Natural Resources Conservation Service Brannon Bates, Parish Executive Director for Washington and St. Tammany Farm Service Agent Theron Graves, Area Director for Rural Development Mack McCraney, Natural Resources Conservation Service for Washington and St. Tammany parishes Eddie Foster, Farm Loan Director for Farm Service Agency T.C. Chachere, Senior Farm Loan Officer for the FSA Chip Peroyea and Farm Service Agent Regan Knight.

“The FSA mission is to support agriculture in the form of operating capital and risk mitigation,” McCain said. “We are especially about young and beginning farmers having access to their capital. What we’ve done here today is highlight an example of a young farmer who had access to that capital and expanded his operation.”

Norton said the farm is an example of how his agency works.

“Our agency is only successful when agriculture producers implement conservation practices on farms like this where a pond was developed for livestock and wildlife grazing management and fertilization for forage production,” Norton said. “That all combined to yield this bountiful harvest.”