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Forrest adds Pierce role to St. Croix FSA duties

Robert “Bob” Forrest is the new Pierce County Farm Service Agency (FSA) Director, succeeding Linda Paul, who retired last month. Forrest share-manages Ellsworth’s FSA location with the St. Croix County office in Baldwin. (Herald photo by Bill Kirk)

Nearly 30 years ago, Robert “Bob” Forrest and Linda Paul both worked as program technicians in the St. Croix County office of the Farm Service Agency (FSA), then known as the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service (ASCS).

Both eventually took manager training, leading Paul to head the same office in Pierce County. Meantime, Forrest followed a more circuitous route to here, finally ending up succeeding Paul upon her retirement last month, though still managing the office in St. Croix where they’d once labored together—his most recent previous assignment.

“We call it share-managing,” he said, explaining the arrangement is driven by budgets and determined at the state level.

The trend in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA, the agency overseeing FSA) in the last three-to-four years has been downsizing, he explained. Employee numbers throughout USDA are now approximately 25 percent fewer than then. While some FSA managers have responsibility for three offices, most are responsible for two.

Since adding his Pierce duties in early May, Forrest sees many similarities between this office and his FSA location to the north, he said. There are four full-time program technicians locally, comprising what he called a “super” staff. In the first weeks of his new double role, he’s been staying busy getting acquainted with Pierce residents, informally spending Tuesdays and Thursdays in Ellsworth, and Mondays and Wednesdays in Baldwin (home to the St. Croix County FSA) despite that not necessarily being a permanent schedule.

Among differences, he’s found a lot of conservation practices in his newly added county, likely due to its terrain, he said, mentioning more contour strips and waterways. He also finds this county’s farmers to be progressive.

“I’ve long been impressed with how productive Pierce farmers are,” he said, making the comparison when he was stationed in nearby counties.

The Glenwood City native said he grew up right in that town, but helped his father farm his great aunt’s rural 80 acres in the vicinity, on which they milked 30 cows. So his youth was kind of “split,” as they mainly spent summers in the country, yet his dad was also employed by the postal service, full-time in the Twin Cities and part-time at the Glenwood City Post Office.

For more please read the June 18 print version of the Herald. 

Bill Kirk

Bill Kirk was editor of the Pierce County Herald in Ellsworth, from 1988 to February, 2015 and is now on staff as a reporter. He holds a bachelors degree in journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. He previously worked in the media distribution department at the University of Minnesota's Minneapolis campus and is past editor of The Tri-County News in Osseo, Wisconsin.

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