South Dakota members shine at national meeting

Farm Forum

Huron, SD – USDA Rural Development Acting State Director Bruce Jones wants to thank South Dakota staff who played a major role in co-hosting the National Annual Meeting of the National Association of Credit Specialists (NACS) and National Association of Support Personnel (NASP) that was held June 22 – 24, 2015 in Deadwood. NACS/NASP are consultative employee associations, organized in 1973, whose primary purpose is to expand, improve and expedite the services of USDA agencies to our rural populations. Sherrie Lewis from Yankton served as the National President this year. Sherrie’s co-workers Brian Ring of Pierre, Pat Hemen of Huron, and Jolene Pravecek of Yankton were recognized for their respective committee work on a national level. Doug Roehl from Huron was the SD chair of the very successful event. April Norton of Mitchell, Paula Corcoran of Pierre, Tim Potts and Gaby Bassett of Rapid City were key players in the operations of the meeting.

USDA-Rural Development Undersecretary Lisa Mensah provided a welcome video to the 260 registered members and guests. She praised the Associations by stating our ingenuity and hard work helps tens of thousands of rural Americans. Ms. Mensah is impressed by the incredible amount of effort, including personal time and money members provide to become “champions of change”. She said NASC/NASP improve this Agency to make us smarter and more efficient by improving the operations, managerial effectiveness and establishment of policies that best serve the public interest. She stated that our unique resolution process has unearthed gold in accomplishing the mission of Rural Development, USDA and for the taxpayers we serve. As an example, in the Guaranteed Rural Housing program alone, there is an estimated annual savings of $4.2 million dollars by processing the loans in a “paperless” method. Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack shared this Herculean effort with President Obama stating this is the gold standard of efficiency, customer service, and good stewardship.

More than 38 Washington, DC and St. Louis, MO, National Office staff attended this annual training meeting by speaking, participating in committee and panel discussions or were available for technical support. There were 45 states from across the nation represented at this conference.

“South Dakota’s staff has made a positive impact on a national platform. They have played an instrumental role in advancing the progress of the organization that ultimately impacts rural communities not only in South Dakota but in communities across the nation,” said Jones.

Jones highlighted that the guidance and development of these employees in the agency from a leadership standpoint has allowed them to broaden their ability to deal with challenges and create solutions that positively impacts the entire agency. South Dakota is well represented in NACS/NASP.

USDA Rural Development is an equal opportunity provider and employer with a variety of direct and guaranteed rural credit programs involving single and multi-family housing, community facilities, water and sewer development and business and cooperative programs.

In Fiscal Year 2014, Rural Development’s investment included $7 million in South Dakota rural businesses, supported 37 projects; $196.8 million in loans and grants to build, repair, rehabilitate, and purchase homes – the agency obligated 71 direct loans and 1,465 guaranteed loans; $6.9 million in community facilities loans and grants – the 26 projects included funding for schools, fire and safety equipment to benefit 6,378 rural South Dakota residents; and $238 million through 32 infrastructure projects to provide reliable and clean drinking water, waste treatment systems, electric power, and telecommunications services in about 40 rural communities in South Dakota.