Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack is defending the closure of 131 Farm Service Agency offices as part of an effort by the Department of Agriculture to eliminate waste and reduce its federal expenditures.
The closures, announced at the end of February, would shut down 131 Farm Service Agency offices across the country. While Vilsack portrays the move as bureaucratic consolidations, some farmers are wary of the closures, fearing that they may signal the start of deeper cuts to agricultural infrastructure.
The offices being targeted for closure are in isolated rural areas and are staffed by skeleton crews. According to Vilsack, the 131 office closings will only affect 170 USDA employees (and those that will be affected are either already retiring or being offered transfers to neighboring FSA offices).
While Vilsack’s overall message remained positive, he did warn farmers that a failure to close superfluous offices could lead to larger, and significantly more painful, budget cuts down the road. Without the closures, Vilsack claimed, the USDA may face over $6.5 million in budget cuts elsewhere and may be forced to terminate or furlough workers across the country.
“It’s not just a question of us wanting to close offices just to close offices,” Vilsack said in an interview with a Colorado newspaper.
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer