The USDA is considering closing three farm service agency offices in Indiana that offer farmers assistance in applying for loans and complying with federal regulations. Under the proposed plan, the Morgan County office in Martinsville would be consolidated with the Bloomington office.
At a public meeting, residents like Norman Voyles said many older farmers would have a hard time making the trip down to Bloomington.
“Instead of coming here and getting stuff done and being able to get back home and get work done in the afternoon, spending just a couple of hours at the most doing stuff, I’m going to be spending half a day to maybe all day just getting the normal USDA programs signed up and whatever other work I have to do down there,” Voyles says.
The USDA only considered closing offices that had two or fewer employees and was less than 20 miles away from another office.
USDA State Executive Director Julia Wickard says the department has to balance its budget. She says this process worked in the past when it consolidated offices in Rush and Shelby counties in central Indiana.
“The feedback that we’ve received today was very similar I those two counties when that discussion initiated,” Wickard says. “And today, I wouldn’t say it’s blissful, but it’s working.”
Wickard says she will take the comments from the meeting to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. He has until April to decide which offices will be closed.