Faulkner County’s Farm Service Agency office is not among six FSA offices that reportedly will receive a reprieve from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The agency said Tuesday that FSA will consolidate 125 of the 131 offices originally proposed for consolidation with other USDA service centers. The only Arkansas office to escape consolidation is in Lafayette County.
Faulkner County’s service center is on South Amity Road in Conway.
Two Arkansas congressmen expressed disappointment with the USDA’s announcement.
"The FSA office is a critical component of Faulkner County’s Conservation District office, which has proven to be a tremendous asset and one-stop shop for Arkansas farmers and ranchers," Rep. Tim Griffin said. "This is disappointing news."
Sen. Mark Pryor said USDA "must be part of government-wide efforts to reduce spending, but it should do so in a smart, consistent and objective manner. USDA failed this test when deciding which FSA offices to close."
He labeled the closures "a result of USDA’s inconsistent or faulty calculations."
Both congressmen said they have repeatedly urged USDA officials to reconsider.
According to the USDA, the consolidation plan is consistent with provisions of the 2008 Farm Bill.
"Under the Blueprint for Stronger Service, USDA is modernizing and accelerating service delivery while improving the customer experience through use of innovative technologies and business solutions," the agency said in a statement. "The Blueprint included USDA’s plan to close or consolidate 259 domestic offices including the FSA offices, additional facilities and labs, and seven foreign offices."
USDA officials said they followed statutory requirements provided by Congress in the 2008 Farm Bill for FSA office consolidations, including two sets of criteria: USDA identified FSA offices located less than 20 miles from another FSA office that had two or fewer full-time employees, and the consolidation proposal included all FSA offices with zero permanent employees regardless of location.
FSA will provide farmers and ranchers affected by consolidations an opportunity to choose the most convenient neighboring county office to conduct their future business, the USDA said. In addition, all employees in a closing office will be provided an opportunity to continue their work with FSA.
The USDA said FSA "is striving to balance budget reductions, staff reductions, and increasing workloads."