Senators question equity of USDA office closure targets
By Sara Wyant
© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.
WASHINGTON, February 8, 2012 -Farm Service Agency offices are holding the last of their public meetings this week to discuss the proposed closures announced by USDA in its “Blueprint for Stronger Service.” USDA announced last month that it will close 259 offices and other facilities, 131 of which are FSA offices throughout 32 states. The comments gathered at the hearings are submitted to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who will make final decisions regarding specific office closures before May.
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, is one of several senators raising questions about the offices selected for closing in his state. USDA said the main criteria used for choosing which offices to close are the guidelines set by Congress in the 2008 Farm Bill. According to the criteria, an office proposed for closure must have two employees or fewers and be within twenty miles of the next nearest FSA office.
Grassley recently held town hall meetings in three Iowa counties impacted by FSA office closures where questions were raised as to whether offices targeted met the criteria.
“Farmers raised some valid questions, and it's important that we get answers to those questions,” Grassley said. “I recognize that some offices may need to be closed, but we should understand how these closing came about and the rationale used for each of the closings to ensure that they are fair in comparison with other states.”
Original story printed in February 8, 2012 Agri-Pulse Newsletter.
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