On The Heels Of FSA Office Closure Announcement, Schumer Calls On USDA Not To Add Insult To Injury For New York State Family-Run Farms With Proposal To Close Sixteen Rural Dev. And NRCS County Offices

On Top of the Seven County FSA Offices Slated For Closure, the USDA Recently Announced They Seek to Close Ten County NRCS Offices and Six County Rural Development Offices across Upstate New YorkLocal Farmers Rely Heavily on these Offices for Funding Support and Technical Assistance from Local Experts; Local Communities Rely on them for Business Funding, Community Development, and Housing Pr

Following recent reports that seven FSA offices are slated for closure across upstate New York, today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer called on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to jettison its proposed plan to close sixteen additional Rural Development and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) county offices across the state. The mass closings would force the state's already struggling farmers to drive greater distances to take advantage of the offices' vital resources.


"This next wave of proposed office closings by the USDA will only further cut the legs out from under New York State's familyrun farms," said Senator Schumer. "The mass closings mean more farmers will be forced to take time off from their jobs to travel greater distances to receive vital support from the government. Today I'm calling on the USDA to immediately abandon its intentions for closing these county offices so our farmers aren't faced with another obstacle while dealing with hostile weather, spiking feed and energy costs and plummeting crop prices."


In an effort to streamline its operations and cut operating costs, the USDA recently announced a plan to shutter Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) offices in Albany, Johnstown, Voorheesville, Lockport, Liberty, Penn Yan, Rochester, Lyons, Mexico and Herkimer. The plan also calls for Rural Development office closures in Johnstown, Plattsburgh, Bath, Binghamton, Ithaca and Lafayette. Rural Development will open two new offices in Cortland and Cobleskill.


Schumer is concerned that NY's largely familyrun farms, which are already confronted by hostile weather, spiking feed and energy costs, and plummeting crop prices brought on by foreign competition, would be further hurt by the USDA's planned closures.  Rural communities, which depend on their Rural Development offices, are facing rising administrative costs and shrinking rural populations.  Today, in a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns, Senator Schumer called on the agency to reject the proposal to shut 16 NRCS and RD county offices in NY.


NRCS, under the USDA, recently announced that in an effort to cut costs it proposes closing county offices in Albany, Johnstown, Voorheesville, Lockport, Liberty, Penn Yan, Rochester, Lyons, Mexico and Herkimer. These offices support individual farmers' environmental conservation efforts through providing funding, such as matching grants, and technical assistance for improvements and maintenance on their properties. NRCS manages voluntary programs within USDA including the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), the Conservation Security Program (CSP), the Wetlands Reservation Program (WRP), the Grasslands Reserve Program (GRP), and the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP).


The Rural Development Agency is also announcing that it will cut costs by closing county offices in Johnstown, Plattsburgh, Bath, Binghamton, Ithaca and Lafayette. Rural Development is the USDA agency that supports rural communities in general by providing services that include lowinterest housing loans, loans to rural businesses, community development grants, and utilities support and regulation for utilities like phone service and electricity.  The services provided by Rural Development offices are designed to develop a strong farm economy by creating a healthy rural community to support farmers and farming. 


Earlier this month USDA announced a proposal to close seven county FSA offices in Albany, Broome, Herkimer, Oswego, Rensselaer, Sullivan, and Yates Counties. Under the FSA's new plan, farmers whose local offices close will be able to select any other office to which they can transfer their cases.  No FSA employees will be terminated and they may choose to which office they are transferred.  FSA will be holding public comment meetings in every affected county during the month of August.

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