Lawrence Co. farmers concerned over FSA closures

Published 11:40 pm Saturday, January 21, 2012

Lawrence County residents, including farmers and ranchers, are concerned about how they will be affected by a proposed closure of the U.S. Farms Service agency office in Monticello, and they expressed those concerns last week at a meeting attended by state FSA director Mike Sullivan.

The Monticello office is one of 11 Mississippi FSA offices — and 260 agriculture offices across the country — that the Department of Agriculture has said it is proposing to close.

“It’s not a pleasant time for any of us,” Sullivan said at Thursday’s meeting, according to The Daily Leader of Brookhaven.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Hill said the 2008 Farm Bill set the criteria by which local offices were considered for closure.  Any office with no permanent employees was automatically considered for closure and any office with two or fewer permanent employees within 20 miles of another office was placed on the list of proposed closures.

Robert Harris introduced himself as a tree farmer and said he wanted to see more information.

“I have not heard anything about productivity, number of producers, number of dollars coming through the office,” Harris said. “I would like to see those criteria included.”

Harris said he believes in fiscal conservatism but wants to see a fuller picture of how cuts will impact local residents.

“I have no problem consolidating offices if they are not being used by the county,” said Harris, pointing out the information he is interested in has not been released.

Jimmy Jones, of Silver Creek, made a similar point and said he wants to know how much money will be saved by closing the Monticello office.

Sullivan said money saved is only available as a national figure and he did not have the information on individual offices.

Jones said properly supporting and funding agriculture should be a national priority.

“Look around this room,” he said. “It’s old people. We need to be educating our young people to do this.”