By Marlena Hartz
A federal initiative to modernize the Farm Service Agency could lead to a merger of the Portales and Clovis offices.
The agencies serve as federal program liaisons for thousands of local ranchers and farmers.
According to an FSA press release, the consolidation is a result of Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns initiative to modernize the agency, founded more than seven decades ago to issue farm payments.
The press release said staff reductions due to consolidations will be nonexistent to minimal.
Six New Mexico FSA offices are under review, according to Portales Farm Service Agency Executive Director Harold Terry.
Terry said FSA offices within 20 miles of one another were targeted for consolidation. FSA guidelines call for at least five offices to be consolidated in New Mexico, Terry said.
Before the consolidations are permanent, the state executive FSA director must present his list of targets to a state committee.
The list then must submitted by Nov. 15 to Washington.
If the merger is approved, it will “have both positive and negative effects,” Harold said.
The agencies would be issued new and improved software and hardware, and would be able disperse payments and information more efficiently, Harold said.
However, Harold said farmers and ranchers may have to travel longer distances to get to an office.
The agency will allow farmers and ranchers to transfer their records to the closest possible office, even if it is out of the county, Terry said.
Though Clovis Farm Agency Executive Director Rhonda Mitchell said she was unaware of the details of the possible merger, she expressed concern that the merger could affect farmers and ranchers if “there are more producers in one office, and less people to help them.”