By the end of August, the Albany County Farm Service Agency office in Voorheesville will be one of four in the state and 125 nationwide to be shuttered as part of a consolidation plan spearheaded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to tackle chronic budget woes. It was announced on Tuesday, May 29, that all offices scheduled for closure be empty by Aug. 31.
“Over the past three years, FSA has faced a variety of budget-related challenges,” said Bruce Nelson, administrator of the Farm Service Agency. “Through a targeted office consolidation effort … FSA is striving to balance significant budget cuts, staff reductions and increasing workloads while focusing the efforts of our staff on high-quality service.”
Albany County farmers now have the choice of frequenting the FSA offices in Schoharie or Rensselaer counties. For the 150 farms in Albany County that actively take advantage of FSA programs, accessibility will be most impacted by the consolidation, said Tom Della Rocco, county executive director for the FSA in Albany, Schenectady and Schoharie counties.
“Instead of the office being in Voorheesville, which is roughly the center of the county, the closest office would be Schoharie or Rensselaer,” said Della Rocco. “There was a public meeting back in March around the state and farmers attended in pretty large numbers to voice their concerns … but the decision still went forward to close the offices.”
There were initially 131 FSA offices on the chopping block when the idea was first proposed in January as part of the USDA’s Blueprint for Stronger Service, an outline that looks at “modernizing and accelerating service delivery while improving the customer experience through use of innovative technologies and business solutions.”
“The USDA, like families and businesses across the country, cannot continue to operate like we did 50 years ago,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in a January statement. “We must innovate, modernize, and be better stewards of the taxpayers’ dollars.”