FSA Office Closures???
Created by rrummel on 3/27/2014 12:22:05 PM

Vilsack on USDA Budget

The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture heard about the 2015 USDA budget from AgricultureSecretary Tom Vilsack Wednesday morning. One issue that got some attention wasthe proposed realignment of Farm Service Agency offices across the country.Subcommittee Chairman Mark Pryor noted that is likely to result in quite anumber of office closures. But Vilsack said he does not anticipate any closuresin 2014 while the agency undergoes a work-study analysis. He told the Senatorsthat roughly 30 offices currently have no full-time employees and there are 111offices with one employee and within 20 miles of another office. Vilsack saidhe believes it’s time to take a look at how to restructure. The Secretary wouldlike to see three types of FSA offices in the future - central offices with a supervisorand three or more employees; branch offices with at least three employees, butno supervisor; and satellite offices where people could obtain information byappointment. Vilsack said the restructuring effort isn’t about saving money -but about modernizing the system. Part of that modernization effort - accordingto Vilsack - is designed to make the offices a one-stop shop for farmerslooking for information on rural development programs, how they might takeadvantage of conservation programs - and have the FSA offices act as a bridgeor connector with those other opportunities. But Montana Senator Jon Testerwarned there could be dire consequences for farmers with fewer FSA offices ifthey don't get their programs in a timely manner. Vilsack assured the Senatorthat wouldn't happen.

On the new farm bill - Secretary Vilsack said farmers should be able to apply for disasterassistance by April 15th - with checks hopefully coming shortly thereafter. Thetimetable for implementing Agriculture Revenue Coverage and Price Loss Coverageis less certain. Vilsack said farmers should be able to update theirproductivity and production records late summer. By early fall he said theyshould get a sense of where USDA is in terms of what the regulations will be andthe elections they have to make. The hope is that farmers will be in a positionto make elections and be informed about them by the end of the year.