Baucus, Tester slow plan to close Montana Farm Service Offices
USDA Is Reconsidering Proposal To Close Seven FSA Offices At Senators’ Urging
(Washington, D.C.) – Montana U.S. Senators Max Baucus and Jon Tester today announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture is 'taking a step back' and reconsidering its proposal to close seven field offices in Montana.
The announcement follows a meeting the senators had with Montana Farm Service Agency officials on Monday, where they asked the agency not to move forward with the proposed closures. USDA officials informed the senators' offices today about the agency's plans to stop moving forward with the proposal at this time.
"Today's news is a step in the right direction," Baucus said. "We're not out of the woods yet but I'm pleased that the USDA is taking our concerns and recommendations seriously. Our farmers and ranchers shouldn't have to travel farther distances just to get the services they need and deserve. I'll continue to work together with Jon and the agencies to keep our offices open for business."
Tester, one of only two farmers in the U.S. Senate, said the decision is welcome news for Montana's farmers and ranchers.
"FSA offices are valuable resources for folks in agriculture all across Montana, and we can't afford to lose any of them," Tester said. "I'm glad to hear the USDA understands how important all its FSA offices in rural Montana are. From resources to security to opportunity, Max and I will continue to fight for the needs of Montana's farmers and ranchers."
Since the USDA's announcement in January to close seven FSA offices in Montana, the senators have worked together to put a halt to the proposal. In February, they sent a letter to USDA Secretary Mike Johanns urging the USDA against the closures. The senators also met with Secretary Johanns and urged him to consult Montana producers before making any decisions about FSA office closures — since producers are the ones with "their boots on the ground" and know what's best for Montana.
Baucus and Tester said that seven FSA office closures would not benefit the overall Montana Farm Service Agency or for the USDA. During their meeting with Johnson on Monday, Baucus and Tester cited the following concerns:
- Montana has nearly twice as many square miles as some states that have nearly twice the amount of offices.
- Public input has been minimal in the process and once public hearings are held it will be too late
- The proposal was put on the table without any real debate
- The proposal does not increase efficiency, it only closes offices
The senators pledged to work together to stop the proposed closures from going forward.