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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

USDA Proposes To Close 259 Offices, Including 31 Cornbelt FSA Offices



 

In an effort to pare the federal budget, the USDA has proposed the closing of 259 local offices throughout the nation.  But the latest effort to reduce costs by cutting local jobs and local services is much different from prior efforts to downsize.  In previous administrations, the proposed cuts were primarily targeted at local Farm Service Administration (FSA) offices with the alternative to get farmers to shift their access to USDA to the Internet.  The more recent effort to downsize has a different complexion.

The USDA’s latest initiative to cut costs is labeled “Blueprint for Stronger Service,” and the Department’s news release says it is part of a campaign to cut waste and operate more efficiently.  Among the cuts are 259 offices, facilities, and laboratories across the US, along with 7 foreign offices.  Among the justifications cited are, offices within 20 miles of each other, offices with fewer than 2 staff members, and locations where “broadband internet services have reduced the need for brick and mortar.”  The savings totaled $150 million.

Nationally the closures include:

1) 131 county FSA offices in 32 states
2) 2 Foreign Agriculture Service offices abroad
3) 15 Animal and Plant Health Inspection offices in the US and 5 abroad
4) 43 area Rural Development offices in 17 states
5) 24 NRCS soil survey offices in 21 states
6) 5 district Food Safety and Inspection Service offices
7) 12 Agriculture Research Service programs in 10 locations
8) 31 field offices of the Food, Nutrition and Consumer Service in 28 states

Announcing the closings, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said, “Agriculture is experiencing its most productive period in history, thanks to the resiliency, resourcefulness and efficiency of American producers.”
The Cornbelt will be impacted by many of the cuts:

Illinois:  1 Food and Nutrition Service office in Chicago
Indiana:  FSA offices in Crown Point, South Bend, and Martinsville; NRCS office in Plymouth; APHIS offices in Indianapolis and West Lafayette, and the Food and Nutrition Service office in Indianapolis.
Iowa:  FSA offices in Centerville, Leon, and Creston; NRCS office in Fairfield.
Kansas: NRCS office in Salina, Food and Nutrition office in Wichita; Food Safety and inspection office in Lawrence.
Michigan:  FSA office in Portage; NRCS office in Marquette; Food and Nutrition office in Grand Rapids.
Minnesota: FSA offices in Waseca, St. Peter, Jordan, North Branch, and Hinckley; Food and Nutrition office in St. Paul; and Food Safety and Inspection Service office in Minneapolis.
Missouri:  FSA offices in Hillsboro, Buffalo, and Versailles; NRCS office in Dexter, Rural Development offices in Hillsboro, Jefferson City, Carthage, and Jackson; Food and Nutrition office in St. Louis and Kansas City.
North Dakota:  NRCS office in Bismarck; Food and Nutrition Service office in Bismarck.
Nebraska:  NRCS office in Scotts Bluff.
Ohio:  FSA offices in Brookville, Pomeroy, Springfield, Somerset, and Carrolton;  Ag Research station in Coshocton; APHIS office in Bowling Green; Food and Nutrition Service office in Columbus and Cincinnati
South Dakota:  FSA offices in Mound City, Buffalo, Kadoka, and Wessington Springs; Food and Nutrition Office in Rapid City.
Wisconsin:  FSA office in Marinette; Food Safety and Inspection Service office in Madison.

Cornbelt farmers may lose 21 of the 131 FSA offices nationwide that are proposed for closing.  However after the last proposed closure, Congress tightened the rules for closing FSA offices.  The USDA cannot close an office until first closing offices that have two or fewer permanent employees and are within 20 miles of another office.  If an office is to be closed, a local public hearing has to be held, and the Senators and Congressman representing that office must be notified more than 90 days before closure.

Summary:
USDA’s effort to reduce operating costs have resulted in the proposed closing of 259 offices in the US and abroad, serving a wide variety of USDA services, from farm programs and soil conservation to food and nutrition education.  Among the proposed closures are 55 offices in Cornbelt states, including 21 FSA offices.  Closures of FSA offices must include a public hearing.

Posted by Stu Ellis on 01/10 at 05:01 AM | Permalink

Comments

In January of last year, the people at the ARS Kika de la Garza Subtropical Research Center in Weslaco, TX were informed that closure was a strong possibility. The Center was the largest and only subtropical research station in the continental U.S. The two others are off-shore. The Weslaco Center did a variety of research, including insects and diseases from across the frontiers, but also investigations into new crops that could be grown in this country. If you wanna know more about the place, here's a link: http://www.ars.usda.gov/main/site_main.htm?modecode=62-04-00-00 They were informed last Novemember to cease all further research and to begin shutting down. Am told that the place is presently in shutdown and abandonment mode. My contact told me that he had two crews in the parking lot waiting to plant 25,000 sets of onions in their north farm while he was at the meeting which informed them of the shut down. Afterwards, he had to go out and tell his crews to go get coffee. The fate of the onions is unknown. Jobs aside, what will happen to all the plants? People are, after all, disposable. It seems that our new Federal government is unable to discern essential government functions between foolishness and necessity. There is a rumor that the place will be sold to a developer who will sub-let it - but we'll see... It was quite a large facility, involving several hundreds of acres, with 25 scientists and over a hundred others. The growers' organizations lobbied heavily (and expensively) against its closure - but all for naught. We've got a lot of very unhappy campers, down there. Formal and complete closure is scheduled for May 31, as I understand it. Am told that border inspection of produce from Mexico into Texas (and beyond) has been a myth for quite awhile. There is very much more to this, but the bottom line is that the safety and surety of our food supply is in peril. Joy! Frank- Frank: Wow, what a report. Thanks for the update, and apparently the decision was made without the benefit of any public hearings. I wonder what Chairman De La Garza would say? ~Stu

Posted by: Frank at January 10, 2012 7:07AM

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