FAQ: USDA announced a couple weeks ago it will go forward with its plans to close 125 Farm Service Agency offices across the country, including three in Iowa. I farm in one of the counties in Iowa that is losing its FSA office. Of all 99 counties in Iowa, how did USDA decide it would close these three?
Answer: U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced on May 30 that USDA will close 125 Farm Service Agency county offices, including three in Iowa. USDA proposed closing 131 offices in January as part of a requirement by Congress in the 2008 Farm Bill that called for FSA office consolidation.
Three county offices—Appanoose, Decatur and Union—will be closed in Iowa. There will be 2,119 office locations remaining open in the U.S. after the consolidations take place.
John Whitaker, state executive director for FSA in Iowa, says to determine which offices to close, FSA used two sets of criteria: offices that were less than 20 miles from another FSA office and that had two or fewer permanent, full-time employees; and all FSA offices with zero permanent employees, regardless of location. Six locations across the U.S. were found not to meet these criteria, bringing the original proposed 131 total down to 125 that are actually being closed.
Affected farmers can choose the most convenient neighboring county office
The process of closing the three FSA county offices in Iowa began immediately after the May 30 announcement. After the required notifications were provided to farmers, FSA employees and office landlords, the closure dates were established and the information was made publically available.
"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 said it 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 the closing office will be provided in opportunity to continue to work with FSA.
As a federal agency, FSA has been affected by widespread budget reductions made by Congress. Since 2011, the FSA has lost 1,230 permanent employees through voluntary early separation and normal retirement. In addition, FSA has been forced to reduce discretionary administrative expense by over 30% in the last fiscal year alone, says Nelson.
The county offices confirmed for closure in Iowa are Appanoose, Decatur, and Union. For a complete list of FSA county offices across the U.S. affected by this decision, go to www.fsa.usda.gov/officeconsolidations.