Do you know of a county Farm Service Agency (FSA) office that is either not staffed or just has one or two employees? Is the office within 20 miles of another office? Then it could be on the list of 131 FSA offices that USDA is proposing to consolidate in an effort to save $150 million annually.
In all, the USDA proposal calls for 259 offices, labs and other facilities to be closed, affecting the USDA headquarters in Washington, D.C., and operations in 46 states and several foreign countries.
Other actions that are part of the USDA proposal include:
- Foreign Agricultural Service: Close two offices in foreign countries, leaving more than 95 throughout the world.
- Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service: Close 15 offices in 11 states and five offices in foreign countries; more than 560 offices would remain in the U.S. and 55 throughout the world.
- Rural Development: Close 43 area and suboffices in 17 states and territories; about 450 U.S. offices would remain.
- Natural Resources Conservation Service: Close 24 soil survey offices in 21 states, leaving more than 2,800 offices in the U.S.
- Food Safety and Inspection Service: Close five district offices in five states, leaving 10 district offices in the U.S.
- Agricultural Research Service: Close 12 programs at 10 locations; more than 240 U.S. programs would remain.
- Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services: Close 31 field offices in 28 states, leaving 32 offices in the U.S.
The proposed FSA office consolidations will have the greatest impact in the South. Arkansas is to have 10 offices closed; Georgia, 3; Kentucky, 5; Louisiana, 5; Mississippi, 8; North Carolina, 6; South Carolina, 3; Tennessee, 9; and Texas, 15. In the Corn Belt, proposed closings are in Indiana, 3; Iowa, 3; Michigan 1; Missouri, 4; Ohio, 5; South Dakota, 4; and Wisconsin, 1. No closings are proposed for Alabama, Illinois, Kansas, Nebraska or North Dakota.
"The work of these offices will be assigned to the adjoining county office, and personnel will be given the opportunity to transfer," says USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack.
Some farm state lawmakers, especially those who represent states that could experience office closures and consolidations, are concerned with the proposal. "While Arkansans are happy to help put us on the path of fiscal responsibility, they should not be expected to make all of the sacrifices," says Sen. John Boozman (R-Ark.).
On the Democratic side, Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) echoes his colleague’s concerns about the office closures. "There is no question that each and every USDA office in Arkansas provides a valuable service to its community, and I am concerned about another attempt to balance the budget on the back of rural America," he says.
With the budget pressures facing the U.S., it might be harder for lawmakers to alter proposals from USDA to close or consolidate offices around the country.