USDA has announced it will close and consolidate 125 of the 131 Farm Service Agency (FSA) county offices proposed in January, saying that “Under the Blueprint for Stronger Service, USDA is modernizing and accelerating service delivery while improving the customer experience through use of innovative technologies and business solutions.”

The Blueprint included USDA’s plan to close or consolidate 259 domestic offices including the FSA offices, additional facilities and labs, and seven foreign offices.

According to the announcement, the Department followed the requirements in the 2008 farm law under which Congress specified a procedure for FSA office consolidations.

Two sets of criteria were used to identify FSA offices for consolidation. The offices identified for consolidation met one of two criteria: 1.) offices with two or fewer permanent, full-time employees located less than 20 miles from another office or 2.) offices with no permanent employees regardless of location.

Following the announcement of the office locations subject to consolidation, public hearings were held in every county affected by the proposals and the comments from these meetings were reviewed before Congress was notified on Feb. 27.

During the following 90-day Congressional notification period, the Department reviewed data and public comments received and determined that six of the original 131 proposed offices did not meet the 2008 farm bill criteria for consolidation and were not included in the final action.

FSA will allow affected farmers to choose the county office for their future business. All employees affected by an office closing will be provided an opportunity to continue working for FSA.

The six county offices originally selected for closure that will continue to operate are: Lafayette County, Ark.; Boulder County, Colo.; St. Mary Parish, La.; Pamlico County, N.C.; Mayes County, Okla.; and York County, S.C. A complete list of FSA county offices subject to consolidation is available at USDA’s website.

Additional details for the Blueprint for Stronger Service are at www.usda.gov/strongerservice.