SALEM, Ohio – Carroll County farmers will be driving farther to visit their Farm Service Agency next year.
The USDA has approved a plan to close the Carroll County FSA office and move its operations to the Tuscarawas County FSA office in New Philadelphia, Ohio.
John Stevenson, Ohio FSA executive director, said the consolidation will “provide us an opportunity to give the producers better service.”
Factors. The director said Carroll County was chosen for consolidation based on several factors. One factor was the office’s average total workload, which Stevenson said was the second or third lowest in the state.
Another important factor was the office’s shared management structure, with other key elements being the number of farms represented, distance from other FSA offices and administrative costs.
The two technicians employed in the Carroll County office will be transferred, possibly to Tuscarawas County. However, Stevenson said the location of the transfers depends on where Carroll County farmers go for their FSA services.
Farmers in the area are not obligated to transfer to the Tuscarawas County office and may go to the office closest to them.
Employees at the Carroll County FSA office, which works with about 320 operators, declined to comment on the consolidation.
Summer meeting. During a public meeting Aug. 27 in Carrollton, county residents gave emotional testimonies regarding why their FSA office should remain open. About 160 residents attended the meeting and dozens spoke to state office state and state committee members about the importance of a locally based FSA office.
“If we’re going to keep our family farms, we’ve got to take care of our young farmers, as well as old farmers,” said County Commissioner Bob Herron at the August meeting.
Farm bill. The farm bill could play a role in stopping the consolidation, although the legislation would have to be passed very soon.
Current versions of the bill include a law that would prevent the closure or consolidation of agricultural offices for one year after a new farm bill is implemented. If Congress approves the farm bill before the office closes, the process would come to a halt.
“If we haven’t already arrived at closure time, we’ll just stop,” Stevenson said.
Affected offices. Carroll County is not alone in the consolidation. Erie, Montgomery, Perry and Warren county FSA offices will also be closed and moved to nearby counties. Lorain County was also on the original list for consolidation, although it was later removed.
The consolidation of these offices will begin in mid-March.
(Reporter Janelle Skrinjar welcomes feedback by phone at 800-837-3419, ext. 22, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.)