What is in this article?:
- Ag budget cut responses follow party lines
- Employees stretched
- Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Texas (11thCongressional District), says it’s too early to say cuts in the FSA budget are too severe but that if the agency’s mission is compromised Congress will need to reassess the situation.
- Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas (28thCongressional District), says agriculture has already made significant contributions to deficit reduction and to continue to target a program that accounts for less than one-half of 1 percent of a $3.5 trillion budget is short-sighted.
- These cuts could result in delays in producer payments and services at a time when many farmers are facing the most severe drought we've seen in decades.
“FSA employees are working the best they can with what they have,” he said. “But they are expecting more cuts from the FY2012 appropriations. I’m doing what I can to work with Texas state FSA director Juan Garcia.”
Those cuts will be hard to absorb, says Darvin L. Collins, president of the Texas Association of FSA County Employees.
“I am extremely concerned with recent budget cuts placed on the Texas Farm Service Agency,” Collins said. “These cuts are not only affecting our employees statewide, they are hampering our ability to deliver mandated farm programs. These cuts could result in delays in producer payments and services at a time when many farmers are facing the most severe drought we've seen in decades.
“We can only stretch so far,” he said.
Craig Turner, President of the National Association of Farmer Elected Committees (NAFEC) says the organization “is concerned with the current budgetary constraints. Prohibiting county committees to meet to conduct normal farm program eligibility business is very serious. These meetings are vital to the approval process of many Farm Service Agency program benefits.”
Limiting county meetings will severely affect the efficient delivery of these important program benefits to the farm economy, he said.
“The House Agriculture Appropriations Bill approved last week will further hinder the delivery of congressionally-mandated programs. Additional cuts in administrative budgets will cause serious harm to the farm economy, especially in light of the current natural disasters occurring throughout the country including flooding in the Midwest, drought in the Southwest, Southern Plains and Texas, and wildfires.”
Turner said the budget reduction will place extreme pressure on FSA employees.
“They have already incurred an approximate 35 percent reduction in all employees since 2000. An additional 10 percent cut has been proposed in the 2012 budget, reducing staff in Texas to around 530 employees.”
He said complex programs including SURE and ACRE take a tremendous amount of time to administer.
“A rubber band can only be stretched so far before it breaks, and these cuts will limit the effectiveness of program administration. We all agree that the federal government needs to tighten its belt, but when the belt gets so tight it cuts off circulation there is more harm done than good.”
He said current budget constraints mean county offices are currently not authorizedto make any purchases without prior approval, including paper, toner, pens, pencils, postage, etc.
“You can’t expect an organization to operate as efficiently as possible with restrictions that are this tight. Newsletters are not authorized, which makes it hard for the staff to get timely information to producers who wish to participate in FSA programs.”
He said scheduling will be a problem. “It is already difficult in many cases for producers to get away to take care of FSA business. These cuts, if implemented as proposed, will change the face of FSA office structure in America. NAFEC is concerned we will see fewer offices through closure and combinations that will limit some producers’ ability to apply for programs.
“With recent discrimination complaints against USDA it should be a priority to ensure that all producers have equal access to programs. Reducing staff and offices will make it even more difficult for USDA to achieve the outreach goals set forth by the Secretary of Agriculture.”
Anyone wanting more information about the National Association of Farmer Elected Committees can go to http://fsacountycommittee.org.