South Dakota Farm Service Agency's new plan to consolidate offices in eight counties – mostly in central and western part of the state – isn't setting well with many of those affected.
"People are worried they are going to have to travel farther and that they will get poorer service," says Leonard Ulrich, a Faith, S.D., rancher who is chairman of the Ziebach County FSA committee.
The consolidations puzzle Ulrich. They are being proposed in the middle of a drought, when there is an increase in workloads in many western FSA offices.
"Every time I stop busy the office is busy," he says.
Rep. Stephanie Herseth, D-S.D., and Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., have introduced bills to slow down and take another look at consolidation plan.
Rep. Herseth wants the FSA to put consolidation on hold for 12 months after the new Farm Bill is authorized. She says FSA timing couldn't be worse. The agency shouldn't make changes until it knows what the need and workload will be under the new Farm Bill. She is also concerned that many of the offices that would be closed serve Native Americans. There are other, smaller offices throughout the U.S. with less workload and fewer clients than those in South Dakota which should be closed first, she says.
Sen. Thune is calling for a study of national and state office efficiency before making cuts county offices
The South Dakota FSA is proposing consolidating:
Sanborn County in Woonsocket with Jerauld County in Wessington Springs.
Campbell County in Mound City with Walworth County in Selby.
Hyde County in Highmore with Hand County in Miller.
Jackson County in Kadoka with Haakon County in Philip.
Mellette County in White River with Jones County in Murdo.
Todd County, which has no FSA office, with Tripp County in Winner,
Dewey County in Timber Lake and Ziebach County in Dupree to a new office in Eagle Butte.
Twenty seven other states have submitted consolidation plans.
North Dakota has not yet submitted a plan.