Farm Service Agency Administrator Teresa Lasseter said streamlining the agency will continue under the Obama administration, with fewer offices available to serve ranchers and farmers across the country.
“Given the budget situation today, along with the changes and complexity of farm programs and needs for the future, we no longer have the luxury of having an FSA office in every county,” Lasseter said during the recent Texas Commodity Symposium, held annually in conjunction with the Amarillo Farm Show.
Lasseter said Georgia, Virginia, Kentucky Texas and Nebraska had taken the “lead in streamlining FSA. There is more to be done across the country."
“We’re trying to be as fair as possible,” said Texas FSA Director John Fuston. “We are trying to provide better, more efficient service.”
Needed upgrades are also in the works, Lasseter said. Some $173 million has been appropriated to update FSA computer systems. She said technology is decades behind what’s required to implement modern farm programs.
She said the agency was working to clarify and revise regulations included in the farm program enacted last year. “It takes time.”
Basic changes in payment programs, including payment limits and a new alternative payment program in the new farm bill will require more than usual scrutiny, she said.
Lasseter said agriculture has enjoyed several years of strong economic performance and less reliance on government payments. “In 2005, farmers received 20 percent of their income from government payments. In 2007, that percentage was only 12 percent.”
Both Lasseter and Fuston will be leaving when the new administration assumes office in mid-January. Both expect a smooth transition.