U.S. Sen David Vitter today announced that the Farm Service Agency office in St. Mary Parish will not be closed. The United States Department of Agriculture is in the process of consolidating offices to save money around the country, and the office in St. Mary Parish was on the list to be closed. Vitter and Rep. Jeff Landry (La.-3) have been urging the USDA to keep the office open because the office is rented without using federal tax dollars.
"Farmers in and around St. Mary Parish rely on this FSA office for their day to day farming needs, and most importantly, it's not costing any additional federal tax dollars to keep it open," Vitter said. "Congressman Landry and I have been working to keep this office open, and it's great news today to hear that it will be."
In March, Vitter urged USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack to keep the FSA office in St. Mary Parish open. Below is a copy of Vitter's letter.
March 21, 2012
The Honorable Tom Vilsack
U.S. Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Avenue SW
Washington, DC 20250
Dear Secretary Vilsack:
I write to express concerns with the proposed closing of the Farm Services Agency office in St. Mary Parish, Louisiana. Specifically, I would like to review the cost savings USDA plans to achieve by this possible closing.
I have heard from local producers who are outraged by this proposed closing. The Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (PL 110-246) requires FSA to consider closing locations with two or fewer employees and within 20 miles of another FSA location. The office in St. Mary Parish is clearly not within 20 miles of another FSA location, so it should not qualify under the review required by the law.
As I understand from local farmers and parish officials, FSA receives its St. Mary Parish office space for free from the parish government. Unless there are other costs associated, I do not see how closing this office will save money.
I appreciate the efforts of your department to find cost savings. However, I believe that closing an office that FSA receives for free will not lead to savings. Please provide me with details of any savings USDA plans to realize from closing the St. Mary FSA office. My colleague Congressman Jeff Landry has repeatedly requested these details, but he has not received anything to date. I am asking for the same information.
If you can explain and justify possible cost savings, I would better understand the proposal to close this office. However, the facts as presented to me now show no savings. Closing an office without out any savings will not reduce the deficit and will only lead to increased costs to producers in South Louisiana. Thank you for your attention to this important matter, and I look forward to your prompt reply.