Haakon and Jackson FSA offices to consolidate

Farm Service Agency State Executive Director Steve Cutler has announced that the SD State FSA Plan was submitted to Washington, D.C. for review and approval.

Cutler said, "It's been almost one year since I began gathering data, holding meetings and reviewing information in preparation for developing a plan to effectively and efficiently manage a declining budget and shrinking staff here in South Dakota. After the plan is reviewed at the D.C. level, specific actions are required here in South Dakota prior to any county consolidation."

"The initial goal of reviewing South Dakota county operations was to identify an optimum network of FSA facilities, staffing, training and technology within the existing budgetary resources and staffing ceiling," emphasized Cutler.

"I believe we utilized every means possible to gather input from South Dakotans," said Cutler. "All actions taken are recorded in the SD FSA Plan."

According to Kathy Lindquist, public affairs specialist at the South Dakota State FSA Office, "The plan calls for the Jackson office being consolidated with the Haakon office in Philip. At this time, there is no projected date. We will wait for direction from Washington, D.C., before proceeding with any office closures. When the plan is formally approved, affected counties will be given an opportunity to respond."

Currently, SD has 48 stand alone counties, four shared management counties and seven combined offices. The submitted plan recommends the following county office consolidations:

•Jackson County (Kadoka) to be consolidated with Haakon County (Philip)

•Mellette County (White River) to be consolidated with Jones County (Murdo)

•Campbell County (Mound City) to be consolidated with Walworth County (Selby)

•Hyde County (Highmore) to be consolidated with Hand County (Miller)

•Sanborn County (Woonsocket) to be consolidated with Jerauld County (Wessington Springs)

•Todd County (no office) to be consolidated with Tripp County (Winner)

•Dewey County (Timber Lake) and Ziebach County (Dupree) to a new location at Eagle Butte

The following Farm Loan File consolidations are also part of the SD Plan:

•Grant County files to Codington County

•Turner County files to McCook County

•Campbell County and Walworth County files to Edmunds County

•Mellette County files to Jones County

•Todd County files to Tripp County

•Dewey County and Ziebach County files to Eagle Butte (new office)

"Considerable cost savings will occur to the benefit of American taxpayers without sacrificing prompt and professional administration of farm programs," said Cutler. "All current office program technicians in counties considered for consolidation will be offered positions in neighboring county offices."

Senator John Thune made this statement concerning the FSA announcement. "This announcement is one of the first steps the FSA takes in its streamlining process. I will gather information and input from the FSA as well as from impacted communities, farmers and ranchers. If changes need to be made, they should not come at the expense of farmers and ranchers."

U.S. Representative Stephanie Herseth said, "I have doubts that the plan will save taxpayer dollars, but I am sure it will result in increased inconvenience, travel time and cost to producers. Local FSA offices are a lifeline to farmers and ranchers. As we are just beginning debate on a new farm bill, it makes no sense to implement major changes to our FSA county office system at this time. We don't know what the next farm bill will look like, thus we don't know what the demands on local FSA offices are going to be."