The FCA’s Revolving Door

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Hold onto your seats – the Farm Credit Administration (FCA) is going to reform itself in the next few years!

Well, not really.

Last week Agri-Pulse broke the news that Dallas Tonsager, a member of the FCA’s board, has been appointed by President Obama to lead the FCA as its new chairman and CEO. You might remember Tonsager from his testimony before the Senate Committee on Agriculture in May, where he said:

“When the Farm Credit System is loaning to an individual producer, if that producer is a fulltime farmer, the System can lend to him for all of his credit needs, including if he establishes other businesses.”

And throughout the hearing he continued to vociferously defend the FCA’s (lack of) oversight of the Farm Credit System (FCS). Based on his past statements, he doesn’t seem like someone who will lead the FCA into a better, brighter future.

But there’s more. Tonsager’s public career could explain why he’s likely to be susceptible to relying on the same old solutions. Apart from his position on the FCA’s board, he’s also the board chairman of Farm Credit System Insurance Corporation (FCSIC). Before that he held a number of posts in the federal bureaucracy, working in a system that was leaving behind young, beginning and small farmers. And to top it all off, his appointment won’t even require confirmation by the Senate!

Tonsager’s defenders will point to his experience, which is abundant, but shouldn’t that experience be examined by the Senate? And even if the Senate had the chance to weigh in and did confirm Tonsager in his post, would that wealth of experience outweigh the pressing need for new solutions from as of yet unrecognized perspectives? What will happen if the FCA is under the control of the same old set? Will it continue on the same course?

What the FCA and the FCS really need now is fresh blood. Fresh blood will bring new ideas that can bring innovation. And innovation is sorely needed: too many young, beginning and small farmers are being left behind.