SPOKANE VALLEY, Wash. — Dave Paul is proud of the level of customer service the regional USDA Risk Management Agency office has developed during his 19 years as its director.
“We’ve just got such a good rapport with all the commodity groups,” he said. “When they need something, we do a lot of work to listen and learn, then come back to try and adapt our programs to better meet their needs.”
During his tenure, the amount of crop insurance coverage issued in the four-state region increased from roughly $500 million to $4.5 billion, Paul said. Just about every insurance program has been rewritten over the last two decades, he said.
Paul will retire as director of the agency’s Spokane Valley, Wash., office July 31. As director of the RMA for Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Alaska, he and his staff have worked with farmers to help them understand how the many federal crop insurance policies work.
The timing seemed right for retirement, Paul said, pointing to the RMA’s transition to new insurance offerings in the new Farm Bill and that he turns 55 on July 12.
After 33 years in the industry, including 19 in the Spokane area, Paul hopes to pursue other possibilities in the private sector. He will be involved in agriculture in some way, he said.
“I’m not so sure I want to be in the production side of crop insurance, but I probably want to look at some aspect of staying involved with crop insurance,” he said. “I have a host of opportunities to take a look at.”
Paul plans to take several months off to build a barn and usher his son Jacob to college in Texas. A past president of the Washington High School Rodeo Association, he plans to continue his involvement in that group.
He leaves behind a solid operation, ag representatives say.
The staff at the RMA office is qualified and producer-oriented, said Steve Hair, a USDA Farm Service Agency state committee member and a former risk management chairman for the Washington Association of Wheat Growers.
“I learned a lot about how crop insurance works from him,” Hair said. “I hope Dave leaves a lot of Cliffs Notes for the next guy, so he or she can hit the ground running.”
The USA Dry Pea and Lentil Council worked with Paul to develop revenue-based pulse crop insurance, and council director of information and research Todd Scholz credits him with the success.
“It’s always sad when someone you really rely on retires, and Dave is someone we really rely on,” Scholz said. “Risk Management is kind of a hard agency to look at and figure out how to make progress, but Dave knows it so well he’s been able to guide us through the process of changes and support our industry needs.”
Paul said he most enjoyed working with farmers to build and improve the agency’s insurance policies.
“They trust us and we trust them — that’s the way it’s supposed to work,” he said. “That’s the part that’s going to be hard to leave. There’s nothing I like better than to go out and speak to a group of farmers at a meeting and listen and say, ‘You guys are the (crop) experts, we’re the insurance experts — together we can make this better.’”