Office closings still not good news for area

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The announcement that 12 of Nebraska's 81 Farm Service Agency field offices will be closed is not good news, but it's at least better than last year's plan, which would have closed nearly a third of the FSA offices across the country.

As it is, farmers in Dundy, Frontier and Hayes counties will have to drive many miles to consolidated offices in Chase, Red Willow and Hitchcock counties to conduct business such as signing up for programs, reporting acreages and crops they plan to plant.

Surprisingly, money isn't the main issue, according to state director Brian Wolford, who noted that the 32 workers in the offices to be consolidated will be transferred to other offices.

In fact, the state's workload calls for 464 employees, but only 380 workers are actually employed.

But money will be saved through cuts in rent, utilities and other expenses, to the tune of $500,000 statewide.

Still, it's nothing to celebrate. That expense will simply be shifted -- and probably in an increased amount -- to the farmers who have to burn more fuel driving to more distant FSA offices.

And, many of the transferred employees will face the prospect of a long commute to their new offices, moving their families to a new town -- or giving up their jobs altogether.

None of them are attractive options, and they all have the effect of further depopulating small towns and eroding their economies to the benefit of larger trade centers.

Public meetings are planned in the 12 areas where the closures will take place, and should be listed at http://www.fsa.usda.gov/ne

Meanwhile, comments may be sent by mail to the Nebraska State Farm Service Agency, 7131 A St., Lincoln NE 68510 or via e-mailed to fsa.officesne.usda.gov

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