Career move takes USDA aide to position in private industry

February 12, 1993|By Amy L. Miller | Amy L. Miller,Staff Writer

Elizabeth Schaeffer may have moved down the hall and moved from public service to private industry, but she'll still be working with her favorite constituency: farmers.

"I'll still be working with them a lot, but I'll work with them in a different way," said Ms. Schaeffer, who recently left her position as the executive director of Carroll County's federal Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service office to become a loan officer with Farm Credit bank.

"Our goals are similar -- providing the best service I can -- but our product is different."

As head of the ASCS office, Ms. Schaeffer was responsible for informing farmers about federal programs and maintaining records about how often those programs were used. She also JTC wrote several grant proposals and garnered federal water quality project money for two programs in Carroll County.

Now she will be processing new and existing Farm Credit loans, assessing farm properties and confirming that new buildings meet the minimum standards for loan guarantees.

Farm Credit specializes in commercial loans to farmers, farm real estate loans and "country home" loans for 5- to 25-acre farmettes, Ms. Schaeffer said.

"I was perfectly happy next door," she said. "But this will give me more of an opportunity to use my education."

Ms. Schaeffer, a 1986 graduate of Virginia Polytechnic Institute with a bachelor of science degree in dairy science, said she enjoyed her agricultural economics and other farm management classes. But she never got to use that knowledge in her career.

"I started right out of college as an office manager," she said. "This will finally be a way for me to use my education in the way it was intended."

Ms. Schaeffer said the move will allow her to advance in her career, yet remain in Carroll County.

"I'm married to a dairy farmer [Noah Schaeffer] and plan to spend the rest of my life in Westminster," she said. "Therefore, I have to work somewhere where I can advance and remain in Westminster. In the ASCS office, I started at the top and there is no step up from there in Westminster."

In either position, being married to a farmer could be problematic, Ms. Schaeffer said. Farmers might not listen to her suggestions if they don't respect her husband's business, or they might not deal with him if they think she gives them bad advice.

"He's never caused me any problems in my job, and I've never caused him any problems in his," she said of her husband.

Ms. Schaeffer said she feels that being a farmer's wife makes her more empathetic with the farmers she helps. "If milk prices are down, then they're down at the Schaeffer farm, too," she said. "The financial problems and windfalls we experience are the same as theirs. I know what's going on."

Melvin Baile Jr., a member of the committee that hires ASCS office directors, agreed that the move is a wise one for Ms. Schaeffer.

"There isn't an awful lot of opportunity for advancement in ASCS to retain contact with farmers," said the New Windsor grain farmer. "With Farm Credit, she can retain contact with the farmers, which is what she enjoys. It's a pretty good career move."

The three-member committee of Carroll County farmers -- the others are Ron Leister and Richard Wilhide -- is now seeking Ms. Schaeffer's replacement. But the group is hampered by a hiring freeze, ordered by the secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Mavis Robertson, the county program assistant, is currently the acting executive director.

"[Ms. Schaeffer] will be replaced, but at what point in time we're not sure," Mr. Baile said. "It depends on the secretary's lifting of the freeze and we have no idea how long that will be."

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