Building Efficiencies in the Review Process
April 21, 2022
We often talk about expanding Federal crop insurance and customer service but safeguarding the integrity of our program is also at the forefront of our mission. I’m truly impressed with the diligent efforts of our Compliance offices throughout the country.
Production related discrepancies make up a significant portion of errors identified when carrying out reviews. To support findings and verify the accuracy of production and yield certifications, our Compliance Investigators calculate production amounts based on a producer’s production records.
We currently utilize internal excel spreadsheets to calculate sold production. But a team in our Compliance area is developing a program called the Production Validator to increase efficiency by automating tasks done by hand or spreadsheets. This reduces the excessive time spent on calculating production for review purposes.
Recently, I spoke with Josh Ray, Director of the Central Regional Compliance Office in Kansas City, who leads development efforts for the Production Validator. Josh was raised on a livestock and row crop farm in Missouri where he still lives with his wife, Jennifer, and their three children. He has been with RMA for 17 years now. I asked him about the Production Validator which his team has developed and will roll out this summer.
Marcia: This tool seems like a game changer for our Compliance teams. Tell us more details.
Josh: The Production Validator allows Compliance to compute sold production for eight specific commodities - corn, soybean, grain sorghum, wheat, cotton, rice, flue cured tobacco, and burley tobacco. Crop insurance rules are built into the application to ensure production is accurately calculated. This tool provides a centralized mechanism for applying all of these various factors in a manner consistent with applicable special provisions of insurance and loss adjustment standards.
Marcia: In the past two years, your team and others have built this program from scratch. What do you attribute the success of this project to?
Josh: With the collaboration of dedicated folks across the agency, we have been able to build a valuable tool from the ground up. While it has not been without its challenges, everyone has pulled together to work through each obstacle. In 2021, the project scope was revised, and the workgroup was expanded to include a more technically diverse workgroup. Today, we work alongside the outstanding members of this project to provide technical assistance and expertise to our private contractors. We also work with the contractors to ensure they develop and shape a tool that is efficient, beneficial, and user friendly for RMA compliance employees.
Josh Ray, Director
RMA Central Regional Compliance Office
Marcia: That seems like quite a large team to bring together!
Josh: Developing this tool from scratch was a huge undertaking. Our workgroup is comprised of numerous individuals from various functional areas who possess diverse technical skills and abilities. We have private contractors, FPAC Business Center employees, Regional Compliance Office employees, and Product Management subject matter experts participating and working alongside myself and the other individuals on the project technical and leadership team. The technical and leadership team is made up of myself, Ronie Griffin (EARD), Susan Choy (DAC), Jil Voris (EARD), Vickie Bower (MRCO), and Gerald Arias (EARD). Everyone involved in this project has done an outstanding job and made significant contributions to this effort. They have all committed considerable time and expertise toward this project.
Marcia: What are the next steps for this project?
Josh: We have completed development of the Production Validator tool for corn. We are approximately 75% complete with the development of production validator tools for soybeans, grain sorghum, and wheat. Our goal is to complete the remaining four crops and to begin user training in August of this year.
Josh shared with me that his first job with RMA was as a summer intern under the Workforce Recruitment Program. Today he says he is proud to be a part of an agency that strives to keep its finger on the pulse of the changing risk management needs of American farmers and ranchers.
I am so proud of Josh, and all our Compliance teammates for the hard work they put in to ensure the integrity of Federal crop insurance!
Marcia Bunger is the Administrator of USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA). Prior to her appointment, she served as a County Executive Director for USDA’s Farm Service Agency. A native South Dakotan, Bunger is also the owner and operator of a 2000-acre farm, a cum laude graduate of Augustana College, and the first member of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community and first woman to serve as RMA Administrator.