Baker County FSA Office may face consolidation

NEWTON — A public meeting at the Baker County Courthouse has been scheduled at 10 a.m. Thursday concerning the proposed consolidation of Farm Service Agency offices involving the one in Baker County.

The purpose of the meeting, according to Hobby Stripling, executive director for Georgia FSA, is to answer questions and receive comments on a proposed consolidation of the FSA office in Baker County. The meeting will be held at the Baker County Courthouse at 167 Baker Place in Newton.

Stripling said that the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, has required that FSA offices nationwide which are within 20 miles of another FSA office and employ two or few employees are subject to consolidated. Baker, Candler and Morgan counties in Georgia fit the consolidation criteria according to Stripling.

“With consolidation, the Baker County FSA Office would no longer exist,” Stripling said, “and most producers would transfer their records either to Calhoun or Miller County.”

Stripling said that the consolidations are a part of ongoing cost-cutting methods effort across the country. Stripling said there are 131 offices nationwide which meet the consolidation criteria.

According to Stripling, the public meeting will allow FSA clients to ask questions and to make comments concerning the proposed office consolidation. Feedback from the meeting will be sent to Washington DC where a final decision will be made.

“The Secretary of Agriculture will make the final decision,” Stripling said, “and he’ll have 90 days from Friday to do that.”

“The thing that pleases me, is that no FSA employees will be laid off,” Stripling said. “Anyone can transfer to another county if they like.”

Producers can also provide written comment by emailing kula.moore@ga.usda.gov or sending written comment to USDA-GA State FSA Office, 355 E. Hancock Ave. STOP 100, Athens, GA 30601-2775 no later than Feb. 6.