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Serving: IN

FSA Reorganization Plan Offers Flexibility

Convenience rule lets you pick office, within reason.

The consolidation plan for Indiana Farm Service Agency offices announced last week will likely meet with some frowns, especially from farmers who live on the fringes of the county being sent to another office. However, Indiana State Executive Director Ken Culp and his assistant, Steve Brown, assure you that you have recourse.

"The goal behind these consolidations was that no producer will be more than a 30-minute drive from an FSA office," Culp says. Depending upon where you live in your county and how counties will be consolidated, that 30-minute drive could be to another office in a contiguous county, not to the new location where your current office staff will be located.

As long as you want to move to a contiguous county, in other words a county with borders that touch yours, you can do so, Brown notes. This convenience rule was added by federal officials in Washington in its current form just in recent months.

Farmers living in eastern Vanderbugh County would have a long drive across Evansville to get to the new consolidated office, proposed to be in Mt. Vernon, an astute reporter pointed out at a press conference announcing the proposed changes. "But he could choose to go to Gibson County or Warrick County and be able to do that within 30 minutes," Brown says. "That gives him some flexibility.

There are limits, however. Suppose you live in Putnam County, It's office is in Greencastle, but the director there, Roger Bailey, already serves Hendricks County. It's an example of shared management that is widely practiced by FSA because of staff limitations today.

"You won't be able to go to Boone County's office, even though Hendricks County is contiguous to Boone and Putnam and Hendricks are already combined," notes Ron Birt of Indiana FSA. But if you live in Hendricks, you will have a choice depending upon where you live. You can continue to do business at Greencastle, or you could request that your records be moved to Boone County, since Boone and Hendricks are contiguous counties."

Several of the counties that are suggested for consolidation were already under shared management, Culp says. That means one manager was serving both offices, but not in either one everyday. Now there would be only one manager.

"People won't lose their jobs, however," says Mike Mattingly, in charge of personnel for Indiana FSA. "They may have to move to a different county to remain a manger, but they will be offered a chance to stay with FSA."

Final hearings will be held in the counties where offices would be closed within the next 30 days. The last hearings conclude August 1.

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