WASHINGTON — More than 30 percent of the nation’s Farm Service Agency offices would close under a plan released Friday by the Agriculture Department. The agency also is trying to reduce its payroll by up to 655 jobs.
The plan would close 713 of the 2,351 offices nationwide, according to a summary the department provided to the Senate Agriculture Committee. The Associated Press reported Sept. 15 on a draft plan to shutter 665 of the offices.
The biggest cuts — 40 percent or more offices closed — would come in Connecticut, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland and West Virginia.
FSA offices, a network in local communities dating to the 1930s, are the chief connection between farmers and the department. Employees there help farmers get loans and payments from a number of programs.
“Agriculture is dynamic, and it is constantly changing. FSA must also change,” outgoing FSA Administrator Jim Little wrote employees in a letter released Friday.
The department wants to modernize a system with rustic technology and underused offices that has gone unchanged as the number of farms has shrunk and producers have turned to the Internet to do business. FSA has 1980s-era computer systems that can’t even use the Internet.
“If you really think about it, it makes good business sense,” said Little, who announced his resignation Friday. Little said his resignation was not connected to the consolidation, which was months in the making.
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