In a letter to Wisconsin lawmakers in Washington, D.C., Wisconsin Farmers Union (WFU) President Sue Beitlich strongly urged opposition to ad hoc county Farm Service Agency (FSA) office closings or relocations.
Currently, six Wisconsin FSA offices located in the following counties are slated to be closed, possibly as early as the fall of 2008: Rusk/Sawyer, Waukesha/Milwaukee, Green Lake, Marinette, Door and Pepin.
"Federal dollars spent on agriculture programs account for less than one percent of the total federal budget; closing FSA county offices will have a relatively small impact on our national budget, but will have a significant negative impact on our producers and rural communities," said Beitlich. "Farmers need to be informed of all their options."
WFU believes that if the proposed closings take place, producers will have to spend even more time away from their operations in order to receive assistance, making it more difficult to get the services they need.
"There is no real reason to close these offices in Wisconsin," said Beitlich. "There are no proposed closings for NRCS offices, which means this is strictly an FSA plan. Instead of forging ahead without clear justification, the FSA should be focused on the real needs of farmers in rural Wisconsin."
In its letter, WFU called on Congress to require USDA to develop and present a USDA-wide national plan for restructuring USDA service centers for public and Congressional review and comment before any offices are closed.
A series of upcoming public meetings will be held in the counties where ad hoc FSA office closings have been proposed by the Wisconsin FSA. WFU urges producers to attend these meetings and make their voices heard. Producers should call their county FSA offices with any questions.
• Waukesha/Milwaukee County, Oct. 22, 7 to 9 PM Ottawa Town Hall, Dousman
• Door County, Oct. 24, 7 to 9 PM Forestville Town Hall, Maplewood
• Marinette County, Oct. 25, 7 to 9 PM Pound Town Hall, Coleman
• Rusk/Sawyer County, Oct. 29, 7 PM to 9 PM Stefan Pavilion, Ladysmith
• Pepin County, Nov. 5, 7 PM to 9 PM Pepin County Courthouse, Durand
• Green Lake County, Nov. 7, 7:30 to 9:30 PM Green Lake County Courthouse, Green Lake