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October 18, 2005   Email to Friend 

USDA ABANDONS PLAN TO CLOSE FARM SERVICE AGENCY OFFICES
The USDA has abandoned its plan to close more than 700 Farm Service Agency offices nationwide.
Darryal Ray
(334) 613-4187
October 18, 2005

WASHINGTON, D.C. Citing widespread opposition in Congress, the United States Department of Agriculture is scrapping plans to close more than 700 Farm Service Agency offices across the country. Offices in 28 Alabama counties had been among those under review.

J.B. Penn, under secretary of the USDA'S Farm and Agricultural Services, announced in a letter to Bob Goodlatte, chairman of the Committee on Agriculture, that the highly-criticized "FSA Tomorrow" plan was being abandoned after running into opposition. "We recognize that opposition has developed to this comprehensive process of state-by-state review ...," Penn wrote, a reference to the Senate's vote to block the closures three weeks ago. "We thus are prepared to set aside the 'FSA Tomorrow' approach and timetable but do believe that continued dialogue and comprehensive review are still necessary."

The "FSA Tomorrow" plan had sought to streamline operations by closing 713 of the agency's 2,351 county offices across the U.S., citing duplication of services and personnel. The USDA said it could use cost savings from the closures to update technology, improvements already appropriated by Congress.

In Alabama, offices in Autauga, Butler, Calhoun, Cherokee, Colbert, Conecuh, Crenshaw, Cullman, Dale, DeKalb, Elmore, Etowah, Fayette, Greene, Hale, Jackson, Lamar, Lauderdale, Lee, Macon, Madison, Marshall, Monroe, Morgan, Perry, Pike, Russell and Talladega counties had been under review.

Keith Gray, national affairs director for the Alabama Farmers Federation, said he was elated with the news. "This is indeed good news for our farmers," he said. "The 'FSA Tomorrow' plan came at a time when our farmers were already hurting due to disastrous hurricanes and low commodity prices. Closing these offices would have been just one more blow to them.

"We are very appreciative of the Alabama congressional delegation's efforts in defeating this plan, and look forward to working with them and the USDA in developing an alternative plan that doesn't penalize our farmers."


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