County FSA office is on chopping block

Thursday, May 10, 2007

A federal plan to consolidate Farm Service Agency (FSA) offices nationwide could result in the closure of the Barry County FSA office in Cassville.

Currently, the FSA office operates out of the USDA Service Center at 74 S. Main St., which also houses the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Barry County Soil and Water Conservation District offices.

According to Russ Neill, FSA farm loan manager who works out of the Barry County office, State Director Tim Kelly visited the local FSA office on April 30 to meet with employees and members of the local county committee.

"He informed us that we were on the initial list of offices that would possibly close," said Neill. "Under the plan, our offices would be moved to the Lawrence County FSA office in Mt. Vernon. Everyone in Barry County would have to drive to Mt. Vernon to receive assistance."

On May 23, the state director and state board will be meeting again to go over the proposed consolidation plan and make any revisions before sending the proposal onto the USDA in Washington, D.C.

U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill issued a press statement on May 1, voicing her opposition to consolidation of FSA offices.

This past week, McCaskill sent letters to the heads of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and the appropriations subcommittee that oversees federal agriculture funding. She urges her colleagues to look for ways to keep local FSA offices open because of the crucial link they provide between the USDA and Missouri farmers.

"Our government must be user friendly and accessible to its citizens," said McCaskill. "The new policies and procedures likely to be included in the upcoming 2007 farm bill this year could be complicated and confusing. We need to do what we can to make this situation a little easier for Missouri farmers by making sure they have a place to turn when they need help wading through the new laws."

McCaskill urged the Senate Appropriations Sub-committee on Agriculture to continue providing the necessary funding to avoid FSA office consolidation and also asked the Senate Committee on Agriculture to provide support for FSA offices as they draft the 2007 farm bill.

Anyone who is opposed to closure of the Barry County FSA office can contact Congressman Roy Blunt, Senator McCaskill or Senator Kit Bond. Comments should be made prior to May 23.

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