Creston FSA Office on the cutting block
March 1st, 2012 by Ric Hanson
News that U-S Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack plans to approve the closing of 131 Farm Service Agency (FSA) Offices around the country within 90-days, including three in Iowa, does not sit well with western Iowa Republican Congressman Steve King. King said today (Thursday) that while he believes all government agencies should strive to become more efficient, the USDA and Secretary Vilsack have not taken into account the actual FSA workload in the affected counties, which includes Appanoose, Decatur and Union.
The criteria for office closures were based on the number of employees the offices had on the payroll in mid-December of 2011. Any office that had two or less employees and was 20 miles or less from another office has been slated for closure. Last year, when the proposal was developed, the Iowa FSA system was under a hiring freeze due to budget issues and therefore offices that had retiring employees experienced lower than normal staffing numbers.
King says “Historically we have had a tool to determine the workload in each county office based on the programs offered and the number of participants in those programs. I suspect an analysis of the workloads of these offices would justify keeping them open. It’s also important to note that the FSA offices in Iowa that are slated for closure by Secretary Vilsack are located in counties that have a large number of acres in CRP. Over several decades, this has led to a loss of population, a loss of farmers and shrinkage of our small towns. This proposal will only make things worse for small town and rural Iowa. Soon these counties will begin to see more and more acres come out of CRP. There’s no question they’ll be hurt by the lack of local FSA offices to help support revitalization of their land and communities.”
King called upon Secretary Vilsack to reconsider his decision.