It’s a year and-a-half since the Farm Service Agency made a move to close hundreds of its county service offices across the country, a move that was canceled when a storm of protest arose. Now the agency is quietly planning to close some of those FSA offices, as a cost-saving measure. Derryl McLaren, director of the Farm Service Agency in Iowa, says state directors were given an order after the closing plan was put on hold.
A directive to "contemplate, formulate, and submit a plan to Washington that would address the financial human resources each state has." They were told to outline how FSA could best deliver services to farmers in their states. McLaren says the logical conclusion was to come up with offices that could be closed to save resources, and because of budget cutbacks, some were ripe for closing.
There were many offices around the country that didn’t have anyone in them, McLaren says. "Through reductions in force, a lot of states were sitting there with offices but no people to man them." Closing those offices will save utility and rent payments, and Nebraska’s set to close twelve of them. But McLaren says Iowa is unique.
Of the 2,400 offices around the country that have Farm Service personnel in them, Iowa’s are the busiest — all but three of the FSA offices in Iowa rank in the top fifty-percent in workload, nationally. They’re the local offices that administer commodity, credit, conservation, disaster and loan programs for the US Department of Agriculture. McLaren says they’re serving clients, and not a one is likely to be slated for closing.
Whether you gauge by clients served, paid workers, or other criteria, McLaren says Iowa has the offices just about where you’d put them for the best efficiency. Asked about the future, McLaren says "never is a log time," but while he hasn’t yet sent plans to Washington, he doesn’t expect to see any of Iowa’s Farm Service offices slated for closing.