Local FSA offices may be closed - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Local FSA offices may be closed

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August 24, 2006

Baker County --  Farmers across South Georgia say federal budget cuts will create a hardship for them. The USDA plans to close Farm Service Agency offices throughout the country, many right here in Georgia.

Farmers use their local FSA offices as a link to the USDA. They report their crops and livestock, and recieve loans from the federal government.

Farmers in Baker County are doing all they can to keep their office open for business.

Some say farming is the lifeline for rural Baker County. The way of life for more than 850 farmers and producers. Tim Burch has farmed his whole life, and depends on help from the local FSA office, right up the road.

"The most important reason for the office to be here is convenience, we have been served extremely well," said farmer Tim Burch.

The FSA office provides farmers like Burch access to federal loans, and it's his link to the USDA. That's why he and other farmers are fighting to keep their local office open.

County FSA Commissioner Jerry Heard compiled a petition, facts and figures to give to the USDA to make the case as to why the office should be spared.

"In Baker County we don't need to lose anything else, that's all we have. Agritculture means a lot to us," said Jerry Heard.

The FSA office here in Baker County is one in 16 throughout the state of Georgia that may be closed. Citizens, farmers, even local leadership say this office is important for the well-being of this county.

"Baker County commission would like to bring jobs to the county, instead of losing jobs, and this is losing three good paying jobs in the county" said county commissioner

Those three employees play a big role in the success of local farmers. For farmer Tim Burch, the FSA office closure would leave him without local representation of farmers in his area.

"That concerns me because sometimes we have problems that are unique to our farm and having someone who is familiar with those are important," said Tim Burch.

For farmers in Baker County, the solution is to keep their FSA office up and running.

Officials there in Baker County say their FSA office is one of the most cost-efficient in the state. It only costs one-cent to run the office for each dollar dispensed to farmers.

The USDA says the purpose of the consolidations is to improve efficiency and provide better services to farmers.

There are nine other offices here in South Georgia that face closure and consolidation, some of which are already consolidated. They include:

Calhoun-Dougherty, Baker, Mitchell, Miller-Seminole, Lowndes-Lanier, Atkinson-Ware, Irwin, Ben Hill, and Telfair-Wheeler counties.

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