Many farmers were affected when the United States Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) in Creston closed its doors Sept. 28, 2012.
“We were forced to cut our budget,” said Adams/Union County FSA Executive Director Mike Praska. “The response has been mixed.”
Since the consolidation of two Union County offices, Praska said the main complaint from clients is the drive to the new FSA location, 2243 Loomis Ave., in Corning.
“Once they are there, they are receiving the same quality service,” said Praska. “A lot can be done now online or by fax. We are trying everything we can to alleviate any inconvenience the consolidation may have caused.”
The need to consolidate
The Federal agency, which offers services such as farm operating loans, emergency loans, micro-operating loans and loans to minorities, women and rural teens, closed 125 offices nationwide as a result of widespread reductions made by Congress.
In a letter to FSA stakeholders, Iowa Farm Service Agency state Executive Director John R. Whitaker said the agency has been forced to reduce discretionary administrative expenses for travel, postage and other supplies by more than 30 percent in the past fiscal year.
Praska said he does not know what the actual cost savings is as of yet, but the FSA has already saved on employees, equipment and rental space.
Even though Whitaker’s letter said all workers in a consolidated county office would be offered employment options by the FSA, some of the cost-savings happened through attrition, as some employees retired.
In deciding which offices would be consolidated, the USDA followed Congressional direction under the 2008 Farm Bill.
“The only criteria was the office had to have two or fewer fulltime employees and had to be within 20 miles of another center,” said Praska.
Praska said he understands the change is difficult for the farmers, but they will recieve the same service from the same people — just in a different location.
For additional information, visit http://offices.sc.gov.usda.gov.