Officials from the Farm Service Agency are protesting plans to shut down more than 130 FSA offices nationwide. The closures are part of a larger effort by the Department of Agriculture to reduce budget waste and trim nearly $3 billion of spending by the end of the year.
As part of the USDA’s efforts to reduce spending, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack recently announced the “Blueprint for Stronger Service Plan,” which would shut down more than 200 USDA and FSA offices.
According to Vilsack, the offices in question are non-vital. “Of the 131 offices on the list, 35 currently have no employees,” he said. “The balance of the offices have either one or two employees and are within 20 miles of another FSA office. The work of these offices will be assigned to the adjoining county office, and personnel given the opportunity to transfer as well.”
FSA employees, however, are concerned that the cuts could hinder the organization’s work. Many FSA officials point out that the organization has been on the receiving end of budget cuts for over a decade, leaving the agency severely understaffed. These closures may only serve to exacerbate that short handedness.
In addition, some FSA workers have pointed out that the closures may not even save much money. Given the selection of lightly staffed, smaller offices, the shutdowns may save very little money. Some employees suggest that modernizing the FSA and filling employment shortages could make the agency operate more efficiently, saving money in the long-term.
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer