FSA Offices to be Consolidated

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FsausdainsAbout 250 Farm Service Agency (FSA) offices will be consolidated across the country, a move intended to improve customer service, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced last week.

Vilsack said no decision has been made on which of the FSA offices will be closed. The consolidation will occur next year, he said.

The consolidation plan, described as part of a "new vision" for FSA offices, is included in U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)'s proposed FY2015 budget. 

"We want that FSA to be a model service agency office," he said.

Vilsack said currently about 30 of the roughly 2,000 FSA offices don't have any full-time employees. Others have one or two.

He noted that with new technology, farmers don't necessarily have to go to multiple offices if they have land holdings in different counties. That will create less paperwork and activity at the offices, he said.

"Over time, we're going to hopefully get to a point where farmers are going to be able to access their information, their records, apply for programs without even coming into an office," he said."

"I think we have a responsibility to ask the question, 'As things change, how do we change and modernize the Farm Service Agency offices?'" he said. "I think we can do this in a way that really provides greater service, better service for producers."

Consolidating offices, he said, will allow the FSA offices that remain open to be adequately staffed.

He also wants FSA employees to start aggressively marketing opportunities for beginning farmers and ranchers. He noted that the farm bill includes incentives for young farmers.

USDA's proposed FY2015 budget also maintains continued funding of all trade promotion programs, he said.

Content provided by FarmWeek- Deana Stroisch

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