Good management and attention to detail, it is alleged, will save taxpayers a lot of money. The Farmers Home Administration, deep in the heart of the Agriculture Department, is busy concentrating on "servicing its loans properly," in the words of one official, to prove that point. We checked with the office in Stillwater, Okla., to find out how things were going.

Dale Folger, chief of the rural housing loan division, has just hired a contractor/caretaker to spruce up homes in the communities of Harrah, Jones and Choctaw, where owners either abandoned their homes or defaulted on their loans. "We maintain them or repair them until we get a good title" then resell them, Folger said, usually within 90 days.

"We are having more defaults, but it's because we are servicing our loans better. It's not the economy; Oklahoma doesn't have an unemployment problem," Folger said.

Does that mean somebody from Washington leaned on him to emphasize collections?

"They sure did," he replied.

Nationwide, according to the Washington office, the small community housing program will cost $3.7 billion this fiscal year. Between Oct. 1 and March 31, about 1,900 of 262,000 farm loans were either foreclosed or voluntarily liquidated, a term used to describe a sale under duress. That's an interesting fact, but no one knows what it means because similar statistics were not kept last year, when management apparently was less important.