Northern New York farmers are still opposing U.S. Department of Agriculture plans to close several Farm Service Agency offices in Saratoga and Albany Counties, citing potential complications and difficulties in obtaining farm loans and disaster support.
The USDA decision is part of an effort to reduce the federal deficit by cutting back on agricultural spending. In order to preserve funding to vital USDA programs, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack sought to close redundant, superfluous, and inefficient offices of the Farm Service Agency. The 121 planned closures will save the USDA hundreds of millions of dollars.
While USDA and FSA officials insist that the services offered by these closed offices will remain available in neighboring counties, many farmers believe that these closures could be a major blow to the local farm sector.
In a letter to Secretary Vilsack, New York Senator Kirstin Gillibrand stated, “Farmers in Saratoga County count on their local FSA office, and closing this office would leave them at least an additional hour from services. Please strongly consider the needs of New York farmers and halt the closing of this critical FSA office.” Gillibrand and several other agricultural senators are considering legislation that would revise the criteria used by the USDA to determine FSA closures, hoping to ensure that farmers do not see gaps in vital agricultural services.
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer