Sunday, October 02, 2005

Cutting Bureaucracy by Making It Faceless

USDA is trying once again to reduce its field offices, as discussed in the following. The last time began under Secretary Madigan in 1992 and was finally implemented under Espy/Glickman. It's a painful process. As rural towns dwindle and dry up, every remaining employer becomes even more important, particularly if you can argue that the office draws farmers to the town. The picture is blurred when you throw in towns that are really becoming suburbs. For example, closing the office in Leesburg Virginia wouldn't affect business there at all. But closing Leesburg makes all other offices a wee bit nervous.

The mention of technology investments is also reminiscent of the 1990's effort. It's true that you can improve efficiency by these means but you also make the bureaucracy faceless.

"'FSA is an agency with a strong record of service to farmers and ranchers,' said Johanns. 'To continue that tradition we must examine our future course with vision and an understanding that producers' needs are changing. Our FSA state directors are engaging stakeholders, local, and state congressional leaders to develop proposals that will help us chart the course for the agency's future. My hope is that we can agree on a plan that will make it possible to invest in equipment, technology and our employees. We want to ensure that top notch service is provided to our farmers and ranchers long into the future.

Nationally, the agency has 2,351 county offices across the country. More than 400 of these offices now have two or fewer full-time staff. Nearly 500 offices are within 20 miles of the next nearest office. And, the cost of delivering services varies widely, ranging from less than 1 cent for the delivery of a dollar of program benefits to more than $2 in expenses for every dollar of benefits delivered."

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