Switzerland County FSA office among those that will be closed through consolidation


In what has been discussed for several months, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced that it has given final approval to the plan that will result in the consolidation of Farm Service Agency offices in Indiana.

The consolidation means that the Switzerland County Farm Service Agency office on Pike Street will be closed and consolidated into the Jefferson County FSA office.

Final approval of the plan was given by Ken Culp, executive director of the Indiana USDA Farm Service Agency, and USDA Acting Secretary Chuck Conner.

“The 19-month process conducted to address the most serious challenges to Indiana FSA included employees, County Committee members and producers from across Indiana,” Ken Culp said in a press release announcing the consolidation. “We could not continue to properly staff 80 offices with fewer and fewer employees.”

According to Switzerland County FSA director Chuck Deputy, the local office here is expected to stay open until March 15th of next year, when operations will move to the Jefferson County FSA office, now in Hanover but soon to be moving to Madison.

Chuck Deputy and his staff sent out a letter on Tuesday of this week officially informing farm owners and operators here of the decision, with a total of 1,718 letters being sent. The letter told of the consolidation with Jefferson County, but also gives farm owners here the right to have their information transferred to with the Ripley County office in Versailles; or the Dearborn/Ohio County office in Aurora.

“Your FSA County Office in Switzerland County has been required to combine with the Jefferson County Office currently located at 3382 West State Road 56 in Hanover,” the letter to farmers begins. “However, the consolidation plan calls for a new office to be relocated to the Madison Hilltop area in the near future. This will result in your farm records administered in the Switzerland County office being transferred to the Jefferson/Switzerland County office.”

Switzerland County farmers have 60 days from now to request that their records be sent to either the Ripley County office or the Dearborn/Ohio County office, or the records will automatically go to the new Jefferson/Switzerland County office.

If a farm owner wishes to have their records somewhere other than the new office in Madison, they must submit a letter as to why their choice is more convenient; and all final decisions will be up to the County Committee.

In the press release form USDA, the department said that reductions in staff ceilings over the past 16 years have resulted in fewer permanent FSA employees in Indiana.

“We feel it is important to eliminate shared management offices, small workload offices and create a structure that will serve producers more efficiently, and try to keep the accessibility of an office within a 30 minute drive for producers,” Ken Culp said.

The consolidations were first proposed in November, which began a 120-day waiting period during which farm owners and operators were notified that consolidation was possible and also informed producers of where their new county office would be located, should the consolidation go through.

Along with the Switzerland County office, other county offices that will be closing and consolidating include: Shelby County, Hamilton County, Vanderburgh County, Clark County, Morgan County, LaGrange County, Steuben County, and Pike County.

With consolidation, the structure of the County Committees will also change.

Under the consolidation plan, the current County Committees will determine whether the new combined county committee will have three or five members, and the current committees will also establish new local administrative area boundaries for the election of new multi-county committees.

Consolidation also means some possible changes in personnel.

Chuck Deputy, the executive director here in Switzerland County, will have to interview to keep his job as the executive director in the new combined office. He and the current Jefferson County executive director will each interview with the two current County Committees on Friday, December 21st.

Each committee gets a single vote, so if the two counties are split on their choice, then the two candidates will move on and be interviewed by the state committee. If those interviews need to be held, then they will occur on January 15th.

The person hired by the state committee will then assume executive director duties in the new office on January 16th.

“Everything happens pretty fast,” Chuck Deputy said.

It is also possible that should a new comprehensive Farm Bill be passed in the coming weeks, all offices could remain open as they are now – although that’s unlikely at this point.