USDA wants to close local farm services offices

The USDA local farm services agency office in Canton. Photo: David Sommerstein

The USDA local farm services agency office in Canton. Photo: David Sommerstein

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is reorganizing in an effort to provide more resources to help and small- and mid-size farms to grow their businesses and reach larger markets, including institutions like schools and hospitals. Secretary Tom Vilsack told reporters recently the effort is important, given the latest census numbers that show the number of small- and mid-size farms continues to decline:

“There are concerns, following the publishing of the census, about the eroding middle in farming,” Vilsack told reporters. “We’re launching a concentrated effort to expand our support at USDA for small and midsized farmers and ranchers. We’ll use some tools that are already in existence and we’re going to create some new opportunities that didn’t exist before.”

But New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand says the reorganization is coming at the cost of local Farm Services Agency offices that are on the front lines of communication with farmers. In a press release, Gillibrand says President Obama's budget includes a plan to consolidate 250 FSA offices including up to 10 in New York State. There are currently 43 in New York State:

“Requiring our farmers to drive four hours round trip to their local USDA office is absurd. These offices serve farmers when they need it most – after natural disasters, to access credit through FSA loans, and to participate in insurance programs. Without accessible USDA field offices, our farmers won’t have the information they need to make critical choices that will impact the sustainability of their farms. We cannot abandon these communities – keeping these offices open must be a priority.”

According to the Auburn Citizen, the USDA already closed four offices in Albany, Saratoga, Yates, and Sullivan counties.

Other good reads in the world of agriculture today:

Modern Farmer has a long read on the origins and practices of the modern milking industry. The article includes superb photos from Adirondack photographer Ben Stechschulte.

The Daily Yonder reports that while urban poverty rates improve in the post-recession, rural poverty is getting worse, especially among children.

States like New York have found a work-around to avoid food stamp cuts from the Farm Bill. Now House Republicans are trying to close the loophole. Politico reports.

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One Comment

  1. In Canada, the Province of Ontario closed several Department of Agriculture local offices and eliminated local field representatives in the 1990's. It was, and still is, and extremely unpopular and controversial decision. It showed a lot of ignorance towards farmers and the rural economy.