This week at the Commodity Classic in Anaheim, Calif. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue pledged to make USDA more customer service oriented. More like Disney.
“Disneyland has been kind of the icon of customer service. Many corporations have patterned their customer service after the things that you see and feel, and the experience you have at Disneyland. That's what we want to do at USDA,” he said Wednesday. “Walt Disney learned to identify his customers listen to his customers identify what they wanted. Then he lavish them with service and today the Disney brand is synonymous with that customer service.”
Perdue wants USDA to be the “most efficient, the most effective, the most customer focused” agency in the federal government.
“What we want to do is make sure that we serve you, our customers, in a way that pleases you by your standards and not ours,” he said.
To accomplish this goal, Perdue plans to focus on two key areas, organizational leadership and technology.
One of the first things Perdue has done since taking his post at USDA to take another look at the organizational structure. In the past one mission area focused both on foreign and domestic agriculture services.
“You've got a foreign Ag Services dependent helping us with trade, and you've got a farm service that meets these customers across the counter every week here,” he explained. “It makes sense to me to put our domestic related services in one place, that's why we reconstituted and renamed the Farm Production and Conservation (FPAC) mission area.”
This is the mission area Bill Northey will oversee when he is sworn in to his new post at USDA. Under this umbrella falls the Farm Service Agency (FSA), Risk Management Agency (RMA) and National Resource Conservation Service (NRCS).
“[Bill Northey] knows what it's like to walk across that counter and fill out multiple applications, whether you want a farm plan, you want to do this or whether you want to do that,” he said. “We want to streamline those efforts and that's what we're depending on Bill Northey for, to lead us into the future.”
Perdue says local FSA, RMA and NRCS workers have customer service at heart already. He says it is up to USDA leadership to provide local agents the tools they need to be successful and to serve farmers well.
Another key area Perdue plans to focus on is technology. While speaking to farmers at Commodity Classic that they have better technology in their combines than the largest government in the world.
“You've got to fill out paperwork here for this program. Then you got to go back and fill out almost the same paperwork for another program and never the twain shall meet,” he said. “We've got to have new systems that communicate. Databases that help share that [information and] pre populate those kind of areas so you don't have to spend so much time there.”
Perdue says there’s no reason farmers should have to leave their farms to fill out paperwork.
“You should be able to do that from the comfort of your combine,” he said.
To meet this need, USDA recently launched the first phase of a new website called Farmers.gov. The new site is first wave of a partnership USDA has with the White House Office of American Innovation.
While there isn’t a whole lot you can do on the site now, eventually you'll be able to submit forms, determine eligibility for USDA programs, look at GIS maps and read about farm bill programs and proposals, in addition to being able to see what's happening in Washington or in the USDA that affects your business, Perdue said.
“Our IT efforts are based on what we've heard from you the farmers and the ranchers, and the foresters and the producers of America. As well saying your mama may have told you; ‘God gave us two ears and one mouth, we ought to talk half as much as we listen,’” he said.
Perdue plans to continue to apply that saying to ensure farmers feel like USDA is adequately serving them, their customer.