SALEM, Ohio – Just weeks after the USDA announced it would be closing more than 700 Farm Service Agency offices across the country, it scrapped its plans.
This means the 28 Ohio offices on the chopping block will remain open.
In late September, the USDA announced nearly one-third of the nation’s FSA offices would close under a program called FSA Tomorrow. It aimed to increase efficiency by consolidating offices.
Lawmakers, however, quickly took steps to halt the plan, arguing farmers would have to drive too far for services.
In a letter dated Oct. 18, department undersecretary J.B. Penn agreed to set aside the program but said the Farm Service Agency’s problems need to be addressed.
Efficiency. The problems, Penn wrote, are that many FSA offices have less than two employees and are less than 20 miles from each other.
These offices could be more efficient if they were combined, said Ohio FSA Executive Director Larry Adams when the program was introduced. Employees would be able to specialize in certain areas, such as conservation, and spend more time with the farmers.
Lawmakers, such as Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, however, said it was a “half-baked and ill-advised plan from the beginning.”
It would force farmers to drive farther and wait in longer lines, Harkin said in a prepared statement.
Moving forward? Ohio FSA’s Adams says he thinks consolidation plans will eventually move forward, but at a much slower pace.
Two consolidations, those of the Erie and Huron county offices and Lorain and Medina offices, were in the works before FSA Tomorrow was announced and Adams said he hopes they’ll go through once he gets the green light from Washington.
Original. The original FSA Tomorrow plan would have closed 731 of the nation’s 2,351 offices. Fourteen of Pennsylvania’s 46 offices were slated to close and 13 of 31 offices in West Virginia.
(Reporter Kristy Hebert welcomes feedback by phone at 800-837-3419, ext. 23 or by e-mail at email@example.com.)