Reorganizing and consolidating Farm Service Agency offices has been in the works for a long time. Before john Nidlinger, Decatur, left his post as Indiana FSA executive director more than a year ago to return to the farm, he told Indiana Prairie Farmer that plans were afoot to close down some offices, primarily to make better use fo resources and make their operations more efficient.
The wheels of change have moved slowly on this front since Congress balked when it realized a large number of offices could close nationwide. Now those wheels are moving again. It's part of what Washington calls FSA Tomorrow, and it's about streamlining the agency. States are in various states of either working a plan, submitting a plan or making a plan on how to consolidate offices. As of July 2, Indiana became one of eight states with a plan tentatively approved by USDA for consolidating certain offices within the state.
"Our goal is to close 10 offices," says Kenny Culp, executive director of Indiana FSA. "This could save us about $1.2 to $1.5 million a year. It's money that we could put into administrative services, including training. The budget ahs been so tight that we've been very short on finding enough time and resources to train our employees properly."
Here are the 10 counties that would be affected within Indiana, according to the plan submitted by Culp and tentatively approved by Steven Connelly, Deputy Administrator for Field Operations within FSA at the federal level.
Shelby County consolidates with Rush County, office to be built near Manilla
Hamilton County consolidates with Tipton County in existing Tipton office
Vanderburgh County goes in with Posey County in Mt. Vernon
Clark and Scott County consolidate in Scottsburg
Morgan goes with Monroe/Owen and Brown, already in Bloomington
Switzerland and Jefferson County combine in Madison
LaGrange County combines with Elkhart, with office planned around Middlebury
Steuben and DeKalb combine, with an office near Ashley near I-69.
Clay and Vigo consolidate, office to be in east Terre Haute
Pike and Dubois combine, site yet to be determined.
State officials have already met with county FSA committees n counties that will be affected, notes Steve Brown, former acting director who assist Culp. "We've made some changes already listening to what we heard in the field," he notes. "We were going to combine LaGrange and Steuben, but farmers told us that's not the natural traffic flow in that region. So we readjusted our plans."
There will be a chanced for more input and readjusting. Federal law requires public hearings within 30 days in the counties to be affected- counties that would lose an existing office. Those meetings have already been scheduled.
*July 10, 9 am, Shelby County fairgrounds, Shelbyville
*July 11, 9 am IP&L Building, Petersburg
*July 11, Vanderburgh 4-H Center, Evansville (consult local areas for central or eastern time)
* Clark County meeting at Clark County Fairgrounds, Charlestown, July 12 at 9 a.m.
Also July 12, Switzerland County Fairgrounds, Vevay, at 2 pm
*Lakeland High School Auditorium (LaGrange), July 24, 9 am
*Steuben County Community Center, July 24, 2 pm
*Morgan County Administration Building, Martinsville, July 26, 2 pm
*Clay County, August 1, Clay County 4-H Building, Brazil, 9 am
*Hamilton County Extension office, Noblesville, August 1, 2 pm.
Comments will be heard and weighed before Indiana submits a final plan to Washington, Culp says. If the final plan is approved, then office consolidations will likely happen in one to three years. Those that would require new buildings would likely take longer, he notes.