A proposal to manage the Kansas Farm Service Agency budget and staff will be submitted to USDA's FSA office in mid-November. Kansas FSA director Bill Fuller says the plan being developed could consolidate 11 county offices in Kansas.
Every year, state FSA directors conduct a state review and submit a proposed plan utilizing their network of facilities and declining resources in delivering farm programs and farm loan programs to the State's farmers and ranchers. There are no national guidelines or quotas for this plan, only that FSA operate within existing budgetary resources and staffing ceilings.
"We are taking advantage of this opportunity for Kansans to have the opportunity to decide what is best for Kansas," Fuller says.
Earlier restructuring plans were mandated by the national office. Fuller says the current consolidation plan will have input from Kansas stakeholders. The problems of a declining budget and shrinking staff continue to mount each year, he adds.
Fuller says the consolidation process will take several months to occur. The national office will review the consolidation plan, followed by the U.S. Congressional delegation. After that, public meetings will be held in counties where consolidation is proposed. The proposed plan can be revised if new information or considerations are heard at the public meetings.
"This review process started in March when three stakeholder meetings were held across Kansas to inform the public of the challenges we are facing and gather input from stakeholders," Fuller says. "At these meetings, producers, farm organizations, commodity groups, policy makers, and community leaders received information on FSA programs, structure, and challenges; but most importantly, the bulk of the time was allocated to listening to stakeholders outline their expectations and present recommendations. Also, an e-mail address of email@example.com was established to receive comments and recommendations from stakeholders."
Fuller says review criteria include staffing, budget, workload, money delivered to producers and borrowers, population, land use, distance between offices and others. Producers in affected offices will be given a chance to choose their administrative headquarters in any contiguous county office, he says.
In Kansas, 98% of the counties have an FSA office, compared to 87% in Nebraska; 86% in Missouri; 79% in Oklahoma and 64% in Colorado. In Kansas, this includes 32 shared-management offices which share one manager between two offices. FSA's share of office space lease in Kansas will cost $2,956,956 in 2006.
Information presented to stakeholders and FSA employee organizations can be found at www.fsa.usda.gov/ks.