Sign up to receive email updates
JONES HELPS SAVE PAMLICO FSA OFFICE
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that the Pamlico County Farm Service Agency (FSA) will remain open, despite the decision to consolidate FSA county offices as part of the 2008 Farm Bill. In February, Congressman Jones spoke out against the closure of the Pamlico County FSA office in a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. Jones worked alongside Pamlico County farmers to keep the FSA office open and impress its importance upon the USDA. With 131 offices originally scheduled to be closed, the Pamlico County office is one of six that has been chosen to remain open.
“Today we won a battle for the people of Pamlico County,” said Jones. “I applaud the USDA on its decision to keep this office open, as this office provides tremendous service to the taxpaying growers of Eastern North Carolina.”
A copy of the text of Congressman Jones’ February letter to Secretary Vilsack follows:
“On behalf of the agricultural producers of Pamlico County, I would like to express my opposition to the proposed closing of the Pamlico County Farm Service Agency (FSA) office.
We all acknowledge the fiscal crisis facing this country. The federal debt is over $15 trillion. Deficit spending is adding over $1 trillion to that debt every year. Clearly, that’s not sustainable. I am proud to be leading the fight in Congress to cut wasteful federal spending, and I fully support most of your “Blueprint for Stronger Service” initiative to trim unnecessary expenditures at USDA. However, I disagree with the Blueprint’s focus on cutting the Pamlico FSA office while apparently ignoring the potential for much greater savings through elimination of non-essential layers of administrative bureaucracy in USDA headquarters. I believe closing the Pamlico office is unnecessary and should be rejected for the following reasons.
First, the workload at the Pamlico office appears to more than justify the office’s continued operation. The 2008 Farm Bill requires FSA to first close county offices with fewer than 2 full-time employees which are over 20 miles away from the next FSA office. An honest assessment suggests that Pamlico should pass that test. The County is isolated and rural. The next closest FSA office is over an hour’s drive away for the majority of residents. Furthermore, I asked FSA for the number of employees at the Pamlico office in each of the past 5 years. Up until late last year, there were always three full time employees. I understand FSA has been trying to replace the recently departed employees, so clearly FSA believes the workload in the Pamlico office warrants additional resources. Pamlico growers tell me that they too believe there is sufficient work to be done to require at least 3 employees in that office. That is especially true considering the demand for FSA services in Pamlico County is higher than it’s been in years.
As you may know, Pamlico County was one of the areas hit hardest by last year’s Hurricane Irene. Agricultural damage in the county was substantial. According to FSA, the storm damaged 203 of 254 acres planted in tobacco, 6,000 of 14,191 acres planted in corn, and all 15,906 acres planted in soybeans. The county was declared a disaster by President Barack Obama, and producers with damaged farm land are eligible for a portion of the $122 million recently appropriated by Congress for the Emergency Conservation Program (ECP). ECP is administered through county FSA offices, and it would be a slap in the face to close the Pamlico office at a time when local growers need it most.
Furthermore, I know from talking to growers that because of the nation’s ongoing credit crisis, demand for FSA’s traditional loan products is incredibly strong. I continue to hear from growers having trouble accessing credit through other avenues who are dependent on FSA loan programs as a lender of last resort. Closing the Pamlico office would put up an unnecessary impediment to county producers for whom these programs may be a lifeline.
Lastly, I believe it is fundamentally wrong to propose closing the Pamlico County office – an entity that provides service directly to taxpaying growers – when, to my knowledge, no equivalent proposals have been made to cut administrative staff at USDA headquarters in Washington, DC. In my opinion, we should not be talking about cutting field level offices until USDA’s administrative workforce has been trimmed to the leanest level possible.”