John T. Fuston, State Executive Director for the Texas Farm Service Agency (FSA), and members of his management team have scheduled public meetings in 12 additional counties to solicit public comment on Texas FSA's proposal to close county offices. This round of meetings follows 13 similar meetings held throughout the state in February.

According to Fuston, provisions outlined in The President's Management Agenda of 2002 as well as federal budget constraints have required FSA to re-evaluate the way the Agency conducts business in the 21st century; thereby necessitating closure or consolidation of FSA county offices throughout the U.S. and in Texas.

"Government agencies are becoming increasingly obligated to reconsider how we conduct business and to take a hard look at how the private sector has improved delivery of goods and services through consolidations and mergers," said Fuston. "Improving how the Agency implements program delivery requires that we streamline and centralize delivery of services."

These public meetings will provide the only opportunity for public comment on FSA's plan to restructure the Agency in Texas. All public comments will be taken into full consideration prior to development or implementation of a final restructuring plan. The dates, times, and locations of the public meetings are as follows:

Tuesday, June 5

Jefferson County, 2 p.m., TAMU Ag Research & Extension Center, 1509 Aggie Dr., Beaumont.

Wednesday, June 6

Angelina County, 9 a.m., Cooperative Extension Office, 2201 S. Medford Dr., Lufkin.

Shelby County, 2 p.m., Shelby County Courthouse, Community Room, 200 San Augustine St., Center.

Thursday, June 7

Panola County, 9 a.m., Texas Country Music Hall of Fame, 310 W. Panola St., Carthage.

Cass County, 2 p.m., Music City Texas Bldg., 108 N. Legion St., Linden.

Friday, June 8

Van Zandt County, 9 a.m., Van Zandt County Country Club, 17960 I-20, Canton.

Monday, June 11

Kimble County, 3 p.m., Presbyterian Church Annex Hall, 201 S. 11th St., Junction.

Tuesday, June 12

Sutton County, 9 a.m., Lighthouse Community Church, 1705 N. Crockett Ave., Sonora.

Crockett County, 2 p.m., Cooperative Extension Office, 1301 Avenue AA, Ozona.

Wednesday, June 13

Presidio County, 9 a.m., Marfa City Hall, 113 S. Highland Avenue, Marfa.

Thursday, June 14

Kent County, 8 a.m., Jayton-Girard ISD School Cafeteria, 700 College St., Jayton.

Friday, June 15

Menard County, 9 a.m., AH Murchison Barn Complex/Gene Whitehead Youth Center, 190B W. US Hwy. 190, Menard.

At the present time Texas FSA operates 206 county offices. Of these, 142 have 3 or fewer employees available at any time to answer phones, greet customers, review applications, or process payments. In fact, 34 offices have two permanent employees, 31 offices have only one permanent employee and 19 county offices have no permanent employees at all.

Fuston emphasized that a proposal to close an office is in no way reflective of personnel performance or county committee contributions and in no way minimizes the importance of the agricultural producers in the local area.

"We believe that properly-equipped, better-trained, fully-staffed offices that are open throughout normal business hours will help us maintain our goal - quality customer service," said Fuston. "Our employees do an outstanding job under our current structure with the resources available to them, but I believe that realigning our agency will, in the end, prove beneficial to both our employees and our customers."

Following review of public input from the first round of public meetings held in 13 counties statewide, the Texas FSA Management Team submitted their proposal pertaining to the first 13 counties to USDA in Washington, D.C. and is awaiting response from the National FSA Office and the Secretary of Agriculture.

FSA's meetings are free and open to the public. For more information, contact Brenda Carlson at (979) 680-5213.