Monday, June 11, 2012

McCaskill Takes Another Step to Protect Jobs, Resources for Missouri Farmers, Ranchers

U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill today continued her fight to ensure Farm Service Agency offices remain accessible for Missouri’s farmers and ranchers.

The Farm Bill being currently debated in the Senate would protect agriculture jobs and reduce the national deficit by $23 billion by streamlining and consolidating federal programs and ending unnecessary farm subsidies, while preserving important resources for farm and ranch families and strengthening the crop insurance program—critical to the livelihoods of Missouri’s farmers and ranchers.  

McCaskill has introduced an amendment that would  prevent the closure of a Farm Service Agency (FSA) office unless another office is located within 20 miles driving distance.  

“The Farm Bill is another one of those opportunities to ensure that the voices of families in our small towns and rural communities are heard in Washington,” said McCaskill, who was born in Rolla, Mo. “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 ag 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.”

Farmers and ranchers visit FSA offices for assistance with various farm programs, including payment programs, loan services, disaster programs, and conservation programs. In the 2008 Farm Bill, Congress placed limitations on the ability of the Secretary of Agriculture to close FSA offices limiting closures to those offices within 20 miles of another FSA office to avoid placing unreasonable travel burdens on farmers and ranchers.

However, that legislation did not specify that the twenty mile requirement refers to driving distance, as opposed to distance measured in a straight line. Ignoring the clear intent of the 2008 bill, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is attempting to abuse this technicality to close down additional FSA offices in states across the country, including one in Morgan County that is a twenty-six mile drive from the next nearest office, but less than 20 miles away “as the crow flies.”

McCaskill has already been active on the Farm Bill, last week introducing an amendment ensuring that a program designed to increase broadband access in rural Missouri didn’t have its resources wasted through diversions to large metropolitan areas.

A copy of McCaskill’s amendment to protect Missourians access to Farm Service Agencies is available HERE.

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