The United States Department of Agriculture, through the Risk Management Agency, works to strengthen the economic stability of agricultural producers in our country. Part of the RMA’s mission is to manage the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation, which is overseen by a board of directors appointed by the Agriculture secretary.
This past April, fourth generation cattle rancher and member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes Maggie Goode was appointed by Secretary Tom Vilsack to the FCIC Board of Directors.
Goode is the first member to be appointed to the board from Montana and the first American Indian. According to Sara Buettner-Connelly, confidential assistant to RMA Administrator William J. Murphy, Goode’s appointment strengthens the Obama administration’s commitment to diversity and Vilsack’s dedication to bringing an American Indian voice to the department.
Goode runs a cow/calf operation on the Flathead Indian Reservation with the assistance of her son and grandsons. She also works full-time as a juvenile probation officer for the tribes. Goode said her goal as a member of the FCIC board is to, “Make good sound decisions that will help family farmers and ranchers stay in business, therefore giving their heirs that same opportunity to continue in agriculture for years to come.”
In addition to her years of employment with the tribes, Goode has also served on various boards and won awards for her volunteer work. In 2001, she received the USDA Farm Service Agency Producer of the Year Award, and in 2005 was honored with the USDA Farm Services Volunteer of the Year Award.
She has served on the board of directors for tribally-owned Eagle Bank and is currently a Farm Service Agency county committee member from Sanders County, and serves on the CSKT Agriculture Advisory Committee. She is a former tribal council representative and former director of the Montana Cattlemen’s Association. She has also been active in 4-H throughout her life as a member, volunteer and supporter.
The FCIC board is a decision making board that directly impacts producers. The board provides general program oversight and administration of the various FCIC programs. Federal crop insurance is sold by 17 private sector companies, while the RMA provides the policies, premium rates and general administrative information for administering and supporting the products. The board members are always watching out for the best interest of producers and to make sure that products offered meet good performance standards. As agriculture changes over time with advancements in technology, new products are submitted to the board for review and approval.
Of the 10-member board, four members represent active producers. “The producers each bring a special background to the board,” Murphy said. “Producers like Maggie Goode bring their farming background and what they know about their industry. She has been very involved in agriculture in her area.”
According to the RMA website, there are 256 million acres of insured crops, the value of those insured crops is approximately $78 billion, and there were 1.14 million policies in 2010 with a premium volume of $7.5 billion. Buettner-Connelly said that a little more than $4.5 billion in premium subsidies were provided to producers in 2010. “This helps the producers manage their business risks. They have a lot of money on the line and you never know what natural events are going to happen,” she said.
Goode said she hopes to continue the legacy of her great grandfather, grandfather and father of advocating for American Indian people by making sure crop insurance is available to niche and smaller farmers. “Outreach into the more remote areas where people might not know what is available is also important. This board has an impact on production agriculture with every decision we make.
“It’s a thrill for me to see my son – and his sons, 7 and 9 years old – on the same land that my father, grandfather and grandmother farmed. The family ranch is our legacy, it has been our backbone for generations.”