For the past several months the U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency has been faced with the challenge of reviewing the organizational structure of the unit to meet the needs of a changing farm industry and to deliver programs to meet those requirements.
FSA faces a budgeting crisis in an environment of decreasing federal funding severely impacting on staff numbers, which affects the level of service to Montana producers.
An intra-agency task force consisting of FSA state and county officials has developed a restructuring plan resulting in the following changes:
- Closure of six Montana FSA offices including those in Lewis and Clark, Meagher, Park, Sanders, Sweet Grass and Treasure.
- Consolidation of the Ravalli/Missoula offices is also planned, but will be delayed perhaps as much as a year to gather information on which of these two offices will remain operational.
Producers affected by office closures will have the choice of doing business with any office in a contiguous county.
- Redistribution of staff to be placed in offices where workload is highest will be developed.
Consolidation of offices will increase staffing levels of employees statewide.
- No FSA employee will be forced out of work due to the consolidation. In the six offices to be closed immediately, there are seven employees affected. All employees will be offered employment in the receiving office of the closure.
- FSA presence in closed counties during the transition period will be maintained.
- Improvement of service will be provided remotely through phone, fax, mail and/or e-mail as well as Web site processes, and the client's level of comfort doing business in this manner.
- Work with the national FSA office will result in simplification of forms and the participation process, and public information will be improved to disseminate important communication to help participants understand FSA programs.