McCaskill proposes amendment in Senate farm bill

The proposal follows the U.S. Department of Agriculture's plan to consolidate FSA and general domestic offices.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., proposed an amendment last week to clarify the distance between farms and Farm Service Agency offices.

The purpose of these offices is to provide farmers with federal services such as acquiring loans or assisting with disasters. How often farmers visit these offices varies.

The new farm bill states FSA offices must be within 20 miles of farms, but it does not specify whether the distance is measured in a straight line or in driving distance.

McCaskill proposed in the amendment that FSA offices could not close unless they are within 20 miles of driving distance from another FSA office. Though it is a technicality, there can be a vast difference between 20 miles and 20 miles of driving distance.

“Not everyone in Congress knows what it means to be from rural America—but as someone who does, I plan to keep up my fight to protect jobs in our (agricultural) industry, to guard against any unreasonable regulations on our farm and ranch families and to preserve access to crucial resources that our small towns rely upon,” McCaskill said in a news release.

The statement comes following the U.S. Department of Agriculture's blueprint to consolidate 131 FSA offices and 259 general domestic offices, according to a news release. The plan provides the USDA with efficiencies valued at $150 million.

FSA will be working to ensure easier lives for farmers even if some of their offices close.

"When offices are consolidated, letters will go out to producers, and if a producer finds that their new administrative office is a bit farther for them, they do have the option to pick an office that is closer to them," FSA Director of External Affairs Tony Jackson said.

Though farmers would have the option to choose which FSA offices they would visit, they might not even need to visit FSA offices as often In the future.

"One of the areas that we are pursuing right now is to have our producers not to have to come to the office so often," Jackson said. "One of the things that we are trying to do a little more of is to make certain programs or sign-ups available online."

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