In a recent letter to key agricultural leaders on Capitol Hill, the National Association of FSA County Office Employees (NASCOE) called on members of Congress to review the recent office closures proposed by the USDA. USDA’s “Blueprint for Stronger Service” intent is to increase efficiency in USDA’s operations.
Under this plan, USDA will close 259 domestic offices, of which 131 are county Farm Service Agency (FSA) offices. USDA claims it can find significant savings by consolidating these offices while ensuring vital services are not cut.
NASCOE raised important concerns regarding the proposed office closings:
- Lack of stakeholder input in the “Blueprint for Stronger Service” plan.
- The need for a “top/down review” of USDA’s budget. This includes a serious review of potential savings from the Washington, D.C., Kansas City, Salt Lake City, St. Louis, state, and district offices.
- FSA is proportionally closing a significantly larger number of offices when compared to its sister agencies.
- Producers still rely heavily on the staff in these FSA offices to assist with in creasingly complex programs available to farmers and ranchers.
NASCOE’s President, John R. Lohr, stated in a letter to members of Congress, “NASCOE understands that the national deficit needs to be addressed, but we strongly recommend that USDA take a comprehensive look at all levels of the Department, starting at the top and working its way down. NASCOE is in support of a top/down approach that addresses all inefficiencies within the Department and its Agencies. This includes Washington, D.C., Kansas City, Salt Lake City, St. Louis, state and district offices. NASCOE encourages producers and ranchers to contact USDA and ask that any plan to reduce the number of county offices be put on hold until a complete top/down approach be taken to identify possible savings. This approach will provide savings so offices that your constituents use can remain open and viable.”