The Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee said Monday that she intends to fight a plan by the leadership in Washington that would create a tremendous hardship on Oklahoma family farmers by closing nearly 30 percent of the Farm Service Agency offices in the state.
“Oklahoma family farmers have endured all kinds of natural disasters – ice storms in the winter, tornadoes in the spring and drought and insects in the summer,” said Senator Daisy Lawler, D-Comanche. “And now Washington is trying to wipe them out with a man-made disaster.”
Nationwide, FSA has proposed closing more than 700 of its offices in an effort to save money. That plan, presented at a meeting in Lawton on Saturday, calls for closing and consolidating 19 of the 65 offices in Oklahoma.
Farm Service Agency offices serve as vital links between family farmers and federal farming and rural development programs. It’s where farmers go to make application for federal farm loans and for information on conservation programs. Farmers depend on their local FSA office for disaster assistance and help with commodities programs and environmental concerns, the Senator explained.
“Consolidating offices means that most farmers will have to drive farther for these services. With the high price of gasoline that will put an unfair burden on family farms,” Lawler said. “The family farmer doesn’t have a team of accountants and administrative assistants to take care of the paperwork and most don’t access services over the internet. If these offices are closed, the extra time a family farmer spends driving to the closest FSA office in the next county will be time that he won’t be able to be working in the field and will take business away from his local rural community.”
The Comanche Democrat said she understands that federal disaster assistance to the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast will cost billions of dollars, but said planning to help pay for disaster relief by punishing family farmers is wrong.
“Rural Oklahoma needs help not another burden to overcome,” Lawler said.
Lawler is encouraging every family farmer to contact all of the members of the Oklahoma congressional delegation and the White House to express their concerns over the plan.
“We have to make sure the voices of Oklahoma family farmers are heard in Washington. Closing Farm Service Agency offices in our state will only make it harder for family farmers to compete in the world market. The very survival of the family farm and our rural way of life could be at stake,” Lawler said.