FPAC Business Center Continues to Deliver for USDA Customers

For us at the Farm Production and Conservation (FPAC) Business Center, it’s all about customers, which includes you – America’s farmers and ranchers – as well as the USDA employees who help deliver farm programs to you. We had several firsts in 2023, and these complement other efforts led by the Biden-Harris Administration over the past three years to ultimately better support America’s agricultural producers, especially those who are underserved by USDA programs.

The Business Center provides mission support across 15 business lines, such as budgeting, civil rights, and human resources, for USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA), Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and Risk Management Agency (RMA). The Business Center’s more than 1,600 employees help USDA’s agencies that provide programs to better serve you.

Feedback from Farmers

Feedback from farmers, ranchers, and private landowners was a big focus in 2023.

This past year, we rolled out a first-of-its-kind nationwide prospective customer survey targeted at farmers, ranchers, and forest managers who are not yet USDA customers, with the goal of better understanding their unique needs, and ultimately improving USDA service offerings to make government agricultural programs more accessible, equitable, and easier to use. We heard from over 7,450 existing and prospective customers across the U.S. providing us with over 20,800 open text comments about FPAC service offerings. This valuable feedback is currently being analyzed and will assist FPAC agencies in learning about ways to enhance support and improve programs and services.

Also, new last year, we added a “feedback” button to our main websites, including,,, and In 2023, we heard from over 3,410 customers enabling a direct listening line from the customer to agency leadership/decision-makers. Feedback is being used to make continuous and real-time updates to agency websites. Further, in 2023, we received over 22,200 individual responses through customer experience feedback surveys. FPAC agencies are actively reviewing customer feedback to improve agency websites, programs, and services.

Improved Service to Producers with Limited English Proficiency

Next, we’ve elevated the way we serve agricultural producers with limited English proficiency. We recognize that removing communication barriers enables culturally and linguistically diverse customers to receive equitable access to FPAC programs and services.

In 2023, the Business Center enhanced our Language Access services by introducing a free on-demand interpretation service for FSA and NRCS customers. A customer can tell us their preferred language, and a USDA team member will call an interpreter via computer video call, mobile app, or by phone, to help with the discussion. For crop insurance customers, interpretation services are available through Approved Insurance Providers.

Customer-facing employees also have easy access to timely document translation services and can arrange for interpreters to accompany them at outreach events and training. They also receive training on how to assist customers with limited English proficiency and are offered resources on Language Access services, including a new guide developed in 2023, and video tutorial.

In 2023, FPAC filled 200-plus limited English proficiency requests, resulting in more than 880 products spanning 28 languages.

Supporting Small and Disadvantaged Businesses

In fiscal year 2023, 73.74 percent of FPAC’s contracting was with small businesses, totaling more than $534 million. Of this amount, $341 million – or 47 percent – was with small and disadvantaged businesses. Additionally, the Business Center increased its number of small and disadvantaged business database entries to 1,275, compared with 800 in fiscal year 2022. In total, the Business Center had more than 12,300 interactions with small businesses from various socioeconomic backgrounds.

Supporting Mission Delivery

To serve producers better, the Business Center is focused on improving how FSA, NRCS, and RMA operate. In 2023, the Business Center:

  • Continued efforts to transition to a fully electronic records management environment.
  • Our Grants and Agreements Division (GAD) provides full-service, lifecycle administration of grants and agreements across FPAC. GAD ensures equality through workload monitoring and regionally-based teams. The Division completed almost 11,000 payment requests in an average of 23 days and exceeded its 90-day closeout goal. The average closeout time was 24 days.
  • Provided security awareness and preparedness training for more than 8,000 employees and conducted assessments of more than 1,000 facilities across the nation that improved security and increased safety for employees and customers.
  • Processed almost 12,000 Personnel Security actions, ensuring employees met high standards of public service.

Supporting Conservation Efforts Through Climate-Smart Agriculture

The Business Center is providing human resources support to NRCS to hire staff to help deliver the historic $19.5 billion in conservation program funding for climate-smart agriculture and forestry. We support NRCS on ramping up recruitment and hiring, training, retaining employees, and business planning to meet the additional hiring needs to implement the Inflation Reduction Act. Among other strategies, NRCS developed a bundled hiring plan to quickly recruit and hire professional conservation planners, streamlined hiring processes, and used partnership agreements and internship and retiree programs to hire additional employees to assist in the effort. These strategies resulted in NRCS increasing overall hiring by 30 percent and decreasing separations by 33 percent.

We have also supported the development and implementation of an environmental review process for the activities funded under Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities to meet requirements set forth by the National Environmental Policy Act and other environmental laws. By engaging contractual support through small businesses, we have been able to reduce the workload on local NRCS field staff while providing direct technical support to partners and applicants.

In addition to addressing legacy pollution, we received funding in 2023 to develop the Web Environmental Analysis Tool. This tool will be used to streamline the environmental review process for FSA programs and incorporate environmental justice into FSA’s program delivery. As a part of this tool, FSA will consistently be applying a standard approach to environmental justice that incorporates best available science.

Reducing Tribal Barriers for FSA Programs

The Business Center has prioritized addressing barriers to Tribal participation in FSA, NRCS, and RMA programs. Last year we published the Partnering with Tribal Nations and Citizens in Ag brochure and launched the Partnerships with Tribal Nations page on At the 2023 Intertribal Agriculture Council Conference, FPAC representatives met with members of the Tribal community to identify concerns with program accessibility. FPAC representatives participated in the development of the USDA DOI/BIA Interagency Working Group for Tribal Agricultural Lands. The Business Center also partnered with FSA to review program handbooks for potential Tribal barriers and facilitated the signing of three new Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) Agreements with the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, Oglala Sioux Tribe, and the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, creating new opportunities for conservation program participation on Tribal lands.

The Biden-Harris Administration will continue to build on these and other successes in 2024, and the Business Center is excited to continue to tirelessly and creatively improve how USDA delivers its critical farm programs.


Robert Ibarra is the Chief Operating Officer of the Farm Production and Conservation Business Center. He can be reached at