FPS staff report
June 5, 2012
After years of struggling to keep its Farm Service Agency office open, Carroll County producers have lost their battle.
It was announced last week that USDA Secretary Thomas A. Vilsack has approved the closure of five Farm Service Agency (FSA) county offices in Ohio, including Carroll County. He said the process will begin immediately.
Others on the list are Clark, Meigs, Montgomery and Perry counties.
State Executive Director for the Farm Service Agency Steve Maurer said after the required notifications have been provided to producers, FSA employees and office landlords, closure dates will be established and made publicly available. He told The Free Press Standard today each producer in the county who utilizes USDA programs through the office must also be contacted and given the opportunity to select the office they want to become associated with.
He also noted the agency has a “90-day out clause” with the landlord (Carrollton Farmers Exchange) at the N. High St. office location. “It may not take that long to wrap things up,” he noted.
Last month, David Baird, county executive director, announced a reduction in hours at the Carroll County office due to the lack of employees. The office does not have any permanent full-time employees due to a retirement and an employee who accepted an opportunity to enroll in the county executive director training program. The only full-time employee in the office was not considered permanent and has accepted employment with another county farm agency.
Baird has been a shared executive director with Tuscarawas County for the past several years.
Earlier this year when the USDA announced they planned to consolidate the Carroll County office with the Tuscarawas County office, a public hearing was held that was attended by about 80 county producers. All of those who chose to speak at the hearing asked the office remain open due to the distance and time requirements involved in traveling to another office to conduct business.
“FSA places the utmost priority on ensuring that our services to producers remain strong as this consolidation process begins,” said FSA Administrator, Bruce Nelson. The agency will provide farmers and ranchers affected by closures an opportunity to choose the most convenient neighboring county office with which to conduct their future business with the agency. In addition, all employees in a closing office will be provided an opportunity to continue their work with FSA.
As a federal agency, FSA has been affected by widespread budget reductions made by Congress. Since 2011, the Agency has lost 1,230 permanent employees through voluntary early separation and normal retirement. In addition, FSA has been forced to reduce discretionary administrative expenses by over 30 percent in the last fiscal year alone.