A time to weep and a time to sow (Keeping the Farm)
(Editor’s note: Jim Eichhorst is the state executive director for Farm Service Agency, Maryland.)
The Maryland Farm Service Agency recently lost one from our flock.
Colleen Cashell, the county executive director in Washington County, was tragically killed in an automobile accident on her way to work on Thursday, March 21.
She began her career with FSA in 1988 as a temporary employee in Frederick County, and eventually worked her way up to CED in Washington County.
She was very dedicated to the farmers of Washington County.
Every decision she made and every comment shared during staff meetings, conference calls, and training sessions was focused on “her farmers.”
Every task she completed was performed with a smile on her face.
Her funeral service was filled with dozens of area farmers and a large number of FSA employees from around the state and the national office in Washington.
Colleen was an institution and we were there to pay our respects to her and her family.
When I began this post I vowed to visit all 20 county FSA offices in the first six months.
Washington County was one of my first visits, and it coincided with a county committee meeting.
Colleen greeted me like an old friend, and from then on, I was her friend.
Sometimes people are like that around their supervisor, but not Colleen; that was simply how she treated everyone.
While we in the Maryland FSA family are still mourning her loss, we also know in time the pain we now feel will be replaced with happy memories of her.
For me, I’m thankful that our paths crossed and because of that, I’m a richer man.
As we mourn the loss of our friend, spring is arriving and that means new life in the fields across our state.
It also means that program staff in Washington are busy on Farm Bill implementation.
As their work progresses, we’ll work with Extension agents and others to educate producers across the state about FSA’s evolving programs.
While details are few at this time, we know signup for the new Dairy Margin Coverage Program will be up first in June.
This enhanced program will hopefully bring a shot in the arm to our dairy farmers who’ve suffered through an extended period of low milk prices.
We expect Agriculture Risk Coverage/Price Loss Coverage signup to begin in early fall, and finally the Conservation Reserve Program signup to begin later in the fall.
While no new FSA programs were added, none were eliminated, so we will continue to offer the types of assistance customers have come to expect.
The Farm Bill also added opportunities for famers to qualify for Direct Farm Ownership loans and increased ownership and operating loans.
New loan limits also recognize today’s costs of doing business and financial stress agriculture finds itself in.
This Farm Bill is an important tool, but it doesn’t work without the dedication of folks we have in our county offices throughout the state, and the farmers who utilize it to make the best decisions for their land and operations
I hope you have a timely, and safe planting season.
And Colleen, I know you’ll be watching so we’ll proceed as you would have done and do our very best to help our farmers this growing season.
We miss you.
1-800-634-5021 410-822-3965 Fax- 410-822-5068
P.O. Box 2026 Easton, MD 21601-8925