Thursday, October 24, 2013

New Farm Bill may lead to more closures and mergers of USDA's Farm Service Agency offices

The fate of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Farm Service Agency offices is in the hands of Congress and its decision on a new Farm Bill. Farm bills passed by the House and Senate would eliminate direct payments, "which are funds awarded to commodity producers regardless of individual need or market conditions," reports Agri-Pulse, a Washington newsletter. "Without direct payment processing, some speculate the workload for Farm Service Agency field offices could drop substantially," and target more of them for closure.

The agency has been eliminating offices in small counties for several years. Lat year it consolidated 125. "Offices not staffed by USDA full-time employees, or staffed by fewer than two full-time employees and within 20 miles of another FSA office, were listed for closure," Agri-Pulse notes. "The plan prompted a bill, introduced by Reps. Leonard Boswell (D-Iowa) and Rick Crawford (R-Ark.), to prevent the closure of FSA offices without a workload assessment.The bill did not receive a floor vote, but it illustrates the difficulties USDA faces in closing offices."

"Greg Fogel of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition said the entire workload created by direct payments would not be lost because FSA could be tasked with new commodity programs," Agri-Pulse writes. "That’s a point echoed by USDA Undersecretary Michael Scuse, who pointed to several proposed farm programs dealing with shallow losses, a new dairy program and the Stacked Income Protection Program for cotton – just to name a few." Scuse told Agri-Pulse, “We will have to see what farm bill looks like, but there will still be plenty of work for the Farm Service Agency.” Agri-Pulse is subscription-only but is available for a free trial by clicking here.

No comments: