The following newspaper articles pertaining to the proposed closure and consolidation with Livingston County are used with permission by the Publisher of The Crittenden Press.
Marion, Kentucky USDA office to close
Local officials will hold town meeting Friday
BY ALLISON EVANS
PRESS ASST. EDITOR
Crittenden County's USDA Service Center on East Bellville Street is scheduled to close as a result of a statewide restructuring prompted by budgetary cuts.
Crittenden's office was spared closure in 2005 during a previous restructuring, but now it is scheduled to consolidate with the Livingston County office with all services moving to Salem. The move requires the approval of NRCS's national headquarters and won't take effect for two years. Still, local leaders are upset about the plan, and will hold a town hall meeting at 7 p.m., Friday at the courthouse.
The USDA Service Center provides various services for farmers and landowners. It administers government conservation and farm subsidy programs among a vast array of other things.
According to U.S. Census figures, Crittenden County has
698 farms and Livingston County has 518.
According to Kentucky's NRCS website, 41 county offices will be closed. In most cases, the office with the smaller workload will be consolidated into the office with the larger workload. That, however, is not the case in Livingston and Crittenden counties. A map of county-by-county workload shows Crittenden with a larger workload based on the number of applications in all programs.
By comparison, there are seven employees in the Marion office and five in the USDA office at the Tambco Center in Salem. Three FSA employee, including Susan Champion, the district supervisor, spend time at both offices.
The Crittenden County USDA office houses the Natural Resources and Soil Conservation, Farm Service Agency, Crittenden County Conservation District and a Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources office.
The Kentucky NRCS website has this to say about the restructuring: “It is a good business decision. The plan matches personnel to workload, and budget. With reduced budget projections it’s a necessity.”
The website says eliminating 41 offices statewide translates into an annual savings of more than $500,000. The site says the intent is to get rid of “bricks and mortar” (offices) rather than employees.
The restructuring plan calls for maintaining current personnel numbers. “We need to keep it open,” said Beverly Herrin, Crittenden County Conservation District chairman. He said Marion is the center of commerce for Crittenden Countians and seldom do residents go to Salem for other business.
Herrin compiled a list of reasons the consolidated offices should be located in Marion, and they include the following:
•Crittenden is a larger county and has more NRCS employees.
•The office in Marion is large enough to house both the Livingston and Crittenden offices.
•Salem is not the county seat of Livingston, but Marion is the county seat of Crittenden.
•Administrative work has been performed for both Livingston and Crittenden counties’ FSA offices at the Marion location for the last seven years.
•There is no city police protection in Salem.
Herrin said he doesn't know whether someone is pushing closure of the Marion office or why the state decided to close Crittenden’s office.
“I suggested they close Livingston’s office, sending people south of the Cumberland River to McCracken County and the others to Marion, but that didn't go over at all,” Herrin said. “It didn't make sense to them.”
Herrin says bringing Livingston County's office to Marion would be less disruptive, as there are more agency employees in Marion than in Livingston County.
Ian Young, director of the NRCS office in Salem, would not comment on the restructuring. “We're just here, we don't have any say in it,” Young said.
Lois Jackson, public affairs specialist with the Kentucky USDA NRCS office in Lexington, said the restructuring plan does not specify exactly where in Livingston County the new consolidated office will be located.
“At the point that USDA is ready to advertise for new space to combine the two locations, we will evaluate exactly where in Livingston County the office would best serve the agencies,” Jackson said in an email to The Press. “The workload and customer service area of all USDA agencies is the determining factor.”
Asked why Crittenden's office will be consolidated in
Livingston County since its workload is higher, Jackson said the state
restructuring plan also took into account
Conservation districts, according to the NRCS web site, may remain in each Kentucky county; however, that is not financially possible in Crittenden County without support of the fiscal court, Herrin said.
The conservation district uses space within Marion’s USDA service center and in exchange provides employee assistance within the NRCS office.
Town meeting draws about 80 to discuss USDA office closure
BY JERRITT HOVEY
PRESS STAFF WRITER
The Crittenden County courtroom was full Friday night where about 80 citizens discussed their views on how to keep the county’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and the USDA Farm Service Agency from moving to Salem.
As reported in last week’s Press, the federal government had decided to close Crittenden’s USDA Service Center on Bellville Street as part of a statewide restructuring and cost-savings plan. All of the employees will keep their jobs when services are consolidated at the Salem office.
Crittenden County Judge-Executive Fred Brown, called the
meeting to order and began the session by explaining the situation. The
USDA office in Crittenden, which employees five NRCS workers and three
FSA employees, is scheduled to be closed and consolidated with the Livingston
According to the FSA’s web site, Crittenden's office has a higher workload than Livingston's office.
Crittenden had 4,706 cases last year versus Livingston's 4,123.
Based on those numbers, Crittenden residents and farmers are fighting to keep the Marion office open. Brown said citizens need to contact state FSA directors, senators and other elected officials.
“By law, the state has to have a public hearing about
this,” Judge-Executive Brown said. “But to my
knowledge, they haven't.”
Various ideas were brought up by townspeople on how to help keep the office from moving. One idea was for everyone to write letters supporting the idea of keeping it in Marion. Brown suggested organizing a petition to be circulated around Marion.
“One volley isn’t going to knock the gate down,” Brown said. “A petition will be useful to send in a packet with all of our letters.”
During Friday’s public meeting, one resident, home builder
James Penn, inquired about whether the move would affect the hunters and
sportsmen that use property in Crittenden County during
hunting seasons. Brown wasn't sure if it would or not but according to Susan Champion, the County
Executive Director, and Larry Starr, District Conservationist, some of the land that hunters may use is
owned by farmers and therefore, wouldn't directly affect hunters but it could possibly affect the farmers.
Ricky Brown suggested preparing a letter that shows the differences in caseloads and farm census studies in the two counties. Most in the room were in agreement with the idea.
If the letters and the phone calls fail, an idea was brought up to involve WPSD-TV News Channel 6 to get more media coverage.
“We should compile all of the information and discrepancies and get Channel 6 involved,” said Greg West, a local magistrate. “Everyone watches the news and it would be a helpful asset for this struggle.”
Starr and Champion were both invited to the meeting to
help explain the consolidation plans, but neither went. According to Champion,
they were both advised not to go to the meeting by superiors
in the state office in Frankfort.
“It’s not that we didn’t want to go,” Champion said. “It's
just that we were strongly advised not to go.
“Since we are federally employed, we have to support anything that the state office decides on,” Starr
explained. “Even if we don't agree with it sometimes.”
The USDA Service Center in Marion serves various landowner needs and administers farm support programs, among many other things.
Local officials encourage anyone who is opposed to the Crittenden office being closed, to make several phone calls to state and federal leaders. Some people they suggest contacting are:
•State Executive Director
Telephone (859) 224-7687
Telephone (859) 224-7350
Telephone (270) 825- 2414.
To send letters to the NCRS Kentucky headquarters, mail
771 Corporate Drive, Suite 210,
Lexington, KY 40503.
A petition opposing the plan to move the office to Salem is also circulating around town this week.
Here in the United States of America we evolved our standards
from the Old and New Testament which included food and ethics.
In the new nations evolving across the world different standards are used in the preparation of foods and it seems that those new standards are just enough to fool a ethical human being.
We should as a nation make sure that any product that crosses into the United States of America or any state border is safe and also does not abuse any patent or copyright law.
We all know as fact that products are placed into containers overseas and that those products are not inspected at all. The first time those products are seen is when the cardboard box is opened at our local
We have trusted the corporate industry for a very long time and they have been clean and ethical. It is now evident that that trust is broken and law must placed before their eyes and executed.
I had recently sent a letter to all my Congressmen about the closing of the USDA Service Center in our community (Crittenden County) after seeing editorials in the Crittenden Press.
We recently ate at a Murray, Ky. restaurant (after I had sent those letters to our Congressmen) and our granddaughter spit out a piece of metal from her food. I gave it no thought and dismissed it a someone
being careless in the kitchen. Then I read about the steel shavings in our meat supply and became very concerned (http://www.wtop.com/?nid=104&sid=1135582).
Now this issue is more important after seeing my granddaughter spit out the steel and then seeing the United States of America Senate committee on food safety May 9, 2007 on TV. This is not the time to
consolidate our USDA Service Centers because money is thin for food inspection in our nation. (We have spent and borrowed in the last three years enough money to clean up the mess in the entire world.)
I received a letter from Senator Mitch McConnell that says that he favors consolidation of the USDA Offices in the United States of America.
Thank you and please vote in our next election,
If you looked at the front page of the June
28 edition of the Crittenden Press, you will notice a flag in the upper
right corner. The words under the flag say, "United We Stand". Those words
because our community stands behind our leaders. Our community wants the USDA and FSA offices to remain in Crittenden County.
The article about the USDA Service Center in The Crittenden Press offered a simple solution to the problem. "It will take an act of Congress to reverse the decision." Mr Hall has placed our three
congressmen in a very unpopular place in their political careers. He flatly placed their careers and his in jeopardy with this statement.
Now with the help of our three congressmen we can remove Mr. Hall from our area and place him in some comfortable government job in a place like Antarctica.
If you are interested in keeping our USDA and FSA offices open here in Crittenden County, let's all get together and write our congressmen. We need to urge them to pass an amendment to keep those
offices in Crittenden County. Copy, cut-out and send this letter plus what Mr. Hall said Tuesday June 26Th ( clip the article from the paper and sign it) to U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell, U.S. Senator Jim Bunning and U.S. Representative Ed Whitfield.
Remember Kentucky's State Motto: "United We Stand, Divided We Fall," which was adopted in 1942.