Farm Programs:

Service to Farmers Will Likely Change as Farm Service Agency Continues to Reduce Staff and Close Offices

RCED-98-136: Published: May 1, 1998. Publicly Released: May 18, 1998.

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Lawrence J. Dyckman
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the impact of actual and proposed staff reductions and office closings by the Farm Service Agency (FSA) on the quality of service to farmers.

GAO noted that: (1) FSA's staff reductions and office closures to date do not appear to have affected the quality of service provided to farmers; (2) according to the Department of Agriculture's 1997 customer survey and GAO's recent discussions with farmers and FSA officials, most farmers are highly satisfied with the service they receive from their local office of FSA; (3) farmers are still generally able to receive prompt service when they walk into their county office and have FSA staff complete most of their required paperwork; (4) if FSA's staffing continues to be reduced and county offices are closed, however, the traditional level of service provided to farmers is likely to decrease; and (5) among other things, farmers will be required to accept greater responsibility for program requirements, including completing paperwork; with less assistance from agency staff, however, this change is consistent with changes in the 1996 Federal Agriculture Improvement and Reform Act, which reduces federal controls over production and places more responsibility on farmers for planting and marketing decisions.

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