From Staff Reports

COLLEGE STATION - John T. Fuston, state executive director for the Texas Farm Service Agency, announced Friday that Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns has approved the agency’s plan to close 13 county offices identified in phase one of a two-part, statewide streamlining initiative.

The Palo Pinto County FSA office located on S.E. 3rd Avenue in Mineral Wells is one of those targeted for closure.

According to Fuston, Texas FSA received the letter of approval from Secretary Johanns on June 28, 2007.

“After considering fully, all public input on this issue and adjusting our plans as deemed appropriate, our final proposal for Phase I of our restructuring plan was issued to and approved by Secretary Johanns.”

Receipt of secretarial approval to proceed with office closure plans means that as of June 28, the clock started ticking on a 120-day period in which Texas FSA begins the administrative and strategic processes required to close a county office.

“To date, no deadline has been set to close office doors. We are targeting late October 2007. Numerous logistics must be considered before we can close any one office,” said Fuston.

Phase I of Texas FSA’s restructuring plan calls for the following county office realignments:

• Blanco County (Johnson City) FSA will be closed and the new headquarters will be in Gillespie County (Fredericksburg).

• Chambers County (Anahuac) FSA will be closed and the new headquarters will be in Liberty County (Liberty).

• Freestone County (Fairfield) FSA will be closed and the new headquarters will be in Limestone County (Groesbeck).

• Goliad County (Goliad) FSA will be closed and the new headquarters will be Refugio County (Refugio).

• Hays/Comal County (San Marcos) FSA will be closed and the new headquarters will be Caldwell County (Lockhart).

• Hood/Somervell County (Granbury) FSA will be closed and the new headquarters will be Parker County (Weatherford).

• LaSalle County (Cotulla) FSA will be closed and the new headquarters will be Frio County (Pearsall).

• Leon County (Centerville) FSA will be closed and the new headquarters will be Houston County (Crockett).

• Madison County (Madisonville) FSA will be closed and the new headquarters will be Houston County (Crockett).

• Palo Pinto/Jack County (Mineral Wells) FSA will be closed and the new headquarters will be Parker County (Weatherford). Clay County (Henrietta) will serve as the headquarters for Jack County.

• Walker County (Huntsville) FSA will be closed and the new headquarters will be Brazos County (Bryan).

• Washington County (Brenham) FSA will be closed and the new headquarters will be Austin County (Bellville).

• Zapata County (Zapata) FSA will be closed and the new headquarters will be Starr County (Rio Grande City).

By mid-August producers in the respective counties can expect to receive written correspondence from FSA leadership regarding the available options for selecting another county office in which to conduct FSA business.

“Upon receipt of their letter, producers will have 60 days in which they can elect to move their respective business records to a county ‘of their choosing’ if a county other than the default headquarters location is more convenient,” Fuston said. “However, after this window of opportunity has expired, all producer records in the county slated for closure will be automatically transferred to the new headquarters of record.”

Texas FSA County Committee elections for 2008 are currently underway. FSA does not anticipate the need for special elections to accommodate the office realignments.

However, for the 2009 election period, offices impacted by the restructuring process will establish new administrative area boundaries and determine the structure of the new three or five-member, producer-elected area committees. Each county will have representation on the area county committee and these members will represent the producers in all counties served by the headquarter FSA County Office.

Under Phase I of the Texas FSA restructuring plan, 25 FSA offices in the state are slated to close. In August, following review of public input from the second round of public meetings held in 12 counties statewide, the Texas FSA Management Team submitted the final proposal for the second part of Phase 1 of the statewide restructuring plan to USDA in Washington, D.C., and is awaiting response from the National FSA Office and the Secretary of Agriculture.

“Our employees do an outstanding job under the current structure with the resources available to them. I believe that realigning our agency will, in the end, prove beneficial to both our employees by maximizing agency resources and our customers through improved customer service,” stated Fuston.

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