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Archive for Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Rep. Moran opposes agency plan to close 11 farm service offices

March 21, 2007

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— Rep. Jerry Moran has joined the growing opposition to the Farm Service Agency's plan to close 11 Kansas offices, saying the agency that handles federal payments to farmers should at least wait until Congress finishes the 2007 farm bill.

FSA formally announced last month that it would close 11 Kansas offices as it struggles to cope with a declining budget and shrinking staff. Moran, R-Kan., said Tuesday that he had asked the FSA to reconsider its decision.

The agency has projected it would save $242,000 in rent plus $46,520 in utilities and other costs by combining the 11 offices with others in neighboring counties.

"This is not about saving money," Moran, whose district encompasses many of the counties where closures are proposed, said in a news release. "FSA has not provided adequate assurance that this plan will result in better services for producers or be a significant savings of taxpayer money. Furthermore, it is premature to close FSA county offices before Congress writes the 2007 farm bill, when future administrative and program needs will be decided."

The current farm bill expires in September.

A day after FSA made its announcement, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the government agency that handles environmental programs for farmers, announced it also would close 11 of its Kansas offices in those same counties.

The FSA and the NRCS are separate U.S. Agriculture Department agencies, but they share office space in the 11 affected Kansas counties. FSA handles farm subsidies, while NRCS handles environmental programs for farmers, funneling money to farmers participating in incentive programs designed to protect the nation's soil, water, air and other natural resources.

The agencies have held public hearings about the closures across the state, and Moran's comments came a day after the final meeting.

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