Farm agency seeks to retool

Kansas Farm Service Agency leaders will be compiling plans to streamline the state’s 103 offices, whose locations are used by thousands of farmers seeking government assistance.

The agency – which spends $46 million a year to dispense $900 million in farm subsidies, conservation payments and other assistance statewide – is looking for restructuring options at the request of the agency’s new national administrator, Teresa Lasseter.

Jack Salava, administrative officer for the Kansas agency in Manhattan, said state officials and committee members would be working in the coming weeks to develop a plan, which would be open to public meetings and discussions before anything would be implemented, if at all.

“We’re looking to do what’s best for our state,” Salava said. “It’ll be a very open process.”

Last year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture floated a plan that would have closed hundreds of offices nationwide, including at least 29 of the 103 offices in Kansas. But the plan was scuttled amid outrage from farmers and members of Congress.

Farmers use FSA offices to enroll in farm programs, collect subsidy payments and handle other matters with USDA.

In Douglas County, the FSA office at 1217 Biltmore Drive works with 3,142 producers and last year provided $3.7 million in assistance.

Ottawa farmer Almeda Edwards, one of five members of the FSA’s state committee in Kansas, said that changing technologies, farmers’ needs and budget constraints all would be weighed before settling on any plans to retool the state’s FSA network.

No timeline for recommendations has been set, she said, but changes are inevitable.

“There’s just not enough money budgeted to Kansas to be able to keep all these offices open in the long term,” said Edwards, whose committee will meet Monday and Tuesday in Manhattan.