Despite Outcry, Molino Farm Services Office Closes

November 30, 2012

Despite a public and local government outcry, the USDA Farm Services Agency Office in Molino is now closed.

The Molino FSA Office administered farm commodities, crop insurance, credit, environmental conservation and emergency assistance for farmers and ranchers in Escambia County. With the closure of the office, farmers will be forced to drive to another office like Milton or Brewton for FSA services.

On May 29 the Florida Farm Service Agency received approval from Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to proceed with the implementation of county office consolidation plan, including closure of six agency offices.

In February, farmers and producers from across Escambia County met in Molino with Tim Manning, FSA state executive director, with pleas to keep the office open.

Manning (pictured) said that offices with two or less employees and offices that were located within 20 miles of another office were targeted for closure. Manning said that on December 23, 2011, the day chosen as a “snapshot” of the Molino office, it met both criteria for closure.

But multiple farmers and producers were quick to point out that it is more than 20 miles to drive from Molino, or areas like Walnut Hill or Nokomis, to the FSA office in Milton because of limited routes across the Escambia River. And the criteria for two or fewer employees, many producers said, was met only because a third employee in the office had recently retired.

“We all understand that government must be a good steward of our tax money,” Escambia County Property Appraiser Chris Jones said at the February meeting. Jones, a timber producer in Escambia County, pointed out that the Escambia County FSA office was the third busiest payment office in the state. “Sometimes you have to weigh those dollars against those that fund it…to put the human factor in it.”

“We are the last in Florida, the last county,” Jones said, “and sometimes we get left out of a lot of things.”

Mike Godwin of Walnut Hill suggested during the meeting that perhaps instead of closing the Molino office, the Farm Service Agency should use it as a nationwide model of doing more with less since the number of payments processed per employee is now the highest in the state.

The major savings from closing the Molino Farm Service Agency will be about $16,000 per year in rent to the Escambia County Farm Bureau for office space along with telephone service. All other utilities are included in the monthly rent.

“The federal government is broke; we all know this,” Walnut Hill farmer Brett Ward (pictured) said at the public meeting. “But we in ag are willing to do our share. But let’s make smart cuts.This is my opinion, in our opinion, is not a smart…Our job to feed and clothe this nation is hard enough.”

Ward, speaking on behalf of the Farm Bureau Board, told state FSA directors in February that the it’s no secret at the Farm Bureau wanted to keep the $16,000 in annual rent flowing. He said the money is returned to the community each year through a variety of community organizations — most dealing with children — like the Northview and Ernest Ward FFA chapters, the Escambia County Extension Service for children’s projects, the Molino Park Elementary PTA and Bratt Elementary School.

The Escambia County Commission also took a stance against the closure, passing a resolution forwarded to FSA officials and members of the local Congressional delegation.

“The Escambia County FSA office is a vital resource to address the claims and concerns of citizens in Escambia County,” the county’s resolution stated.

“Over the past three years, FSA has faced a variety of budget-related challenges,” said Bruce Nelson, Administrator of the Farm Service Agency in a news release distributed Thursday. “Although we recognize that change is never easy, we strongly believe that taking this action now is critical to ensuring FSA can continue to serve its customers as it adjusts to budget constraints. FSA can only achieve the high level of service expected through consolidation of our human, financial and technical resources.”

Beginning today, all FSA program services for Escambia County will be provided by the Santa Rosa County FSA office unless a producer has requested their records transferred to another county.

The Santa Rosa County FSA office is located at 6277 Dogwood Drive in Milton, and the phone number is (850) 623-2411.

Pictured top: Dozens of farmers and producers packed a meeting about the Molino FSA Office in February at Highland Baptist Church in Molino. Pictured below:  The Farm Service Agency rented office space in this, the Farm Bureau Building on Highway 97 in Molino. file photos, click to enlarge.


21 Responses to “Despite Outcry, Molino Farm Services Office Closes”

  1. simple minds need to research on December 1st, 2012 10:28 pm

    you people need to do a little more reading and research and a lot less spouting political talking points…a lot of things in this country can go by the wayside but when people start going to the stores and there is not food…thats when the stuff hits the fan. When you research this so called “free market” and you find out that Obama and the corporations are selling products overseas for a fraction of the price that they sell them to the American farmer for, you would know why there are so farm programs in place…This includes everything from chemicals to tractors.This is not at all the same thing as people NOT going to work and having 10 kids so they can collect a check. You need to know the subject that you are talking about before you just throw up a comment..

  2. Lady on December 1st, 2012 10:14 pm

    Here we go again. The North end might as well be in Alabama. We now have to drive to Santa Rosa county for services we once had a Molino. We have to drive downtown Pensacola for almost all other services. Some of the items you need you cannot get at the Molino tax office but have to go into Pensacola. The North end is continually losing services – we lost the court house in Century; we don’t have a county health department that was built for that use in Walnut Hill so if we had to start over it would not be in Florida. They get better service, pay less taxes on their homes and land and have government facilties in Atmore, and Brewton (not just Brewton). They have our district so large in Escambia County until the North end can never get anyone elected up here so we are doomed. I wonder what else will be coming in the near future to the North end.

  3. Bob on December 1st, 2012 6:25 pm

    You wanted the cuts by your vote to save thoes taxes. Stop crying.
    Or is it look whose crying now!!!!!!
    O are you the same whiners that wants to drive to Alabama to save that 4 cent on gas so you can say you don’t support the bus system in Pensacola. . Ha Ha Ha.

  4. Granny on December 1st, 2012 2:02 pm

    All this began the the party that is now in office. Don’t blame it on the GOP. We knew this was in the works months ago.

  5. 429SCJ on December 1st, 2012 8:01 am

    “Ag is food”, Amen Abe, nothing drags them away from the tv or xbox and into the streets faster than a growling empty belly.

  6. Rufus Lowgun on November 30th, 2012 5:11 pm

    Did all you folks up there in the north part of the county who voted for Romney/Ryan’s austerity measures think that cuts in govrenment spending were only going to affect people that aren’t you? If so, you fell for it again. Cuts affect everyone, not just “them”. That includes “real” Americans too.

  7. huh on November 30th, 2012 4:44 pm

    when you vote GOP, when they come and cut your job don’t act surprised

  8. Bob on November 30th, 2012 4:32 pm

    This is exactly what you voted for when you voted for Romney and Ryan. But you complain when it happens on Obamas watch.

  9. Southerner on November 30th, 2012 12:24 pm

    Good. Many more cuts are needed.

  10. eeyore on November 30th, 2012 11:23 am

    …well, folks you got what you were wishing/voting for…smaller government…congradulations!

  11. Abe on November 30th, 2012 10:55 am

    @ Ag is food: What happened to that GOP mantra about deregulation and letting the free market take its course? The government is keeping prices low by artificial means to keep the masses happy. Which means the farmer that’s too small to be in the big leagues can’t get enough for his crops to survive so he’s forced out of the game.
    The government controls supply to keep from having lean years as well as over supply, I understand all this as I stated earlier.

    The point is that the very same people that hate big goverment are the very same people with their hand out. This is why when the Republicans have the power that they do not reduce the size of government but increase it dramatically.

  12. Jane on November 30th, 2012 9:56 am

    To those who say the taxpayers have to pay, etc.: if you eat vegetables, use cotton shirts, eat beef/chicken….where do you think that comes from? If they ship it in your prices will go up.

  13. Mac on November 30th, 2012 9:51 am

    Everyone wants to balance the budget and “share the hardship”, except when it effects him/her. “Don’t tax me and don’t tax thee but tax that fellow behind the tree”. The hardworking farmers of Escambia County, conservatives to the bone, are no exception.

    What a bunch of hypocrites we are!

  14. AG is Food on November 30th, 2012 9:43 am

    Ab, Really? Apparently you don’t know where your food source and clothing come from!!!!! Farmers need all the breaks they can get.. without farming we are all in trouble… Farming affects everyone…. They should start their cuts with Food Stamps etc….. People that don’t have a job should be limited to how long they can be on a government program… they should have job training etc… and then after 2 years get a job and then they come off the programs.. Simple.. common sense….

  15. justsaying on November 30th, 2012 9:36 am

    What is happening to the employees that are being effected? I hope at least they are being relocated.

  16. Abe on November 30th, 2012 9:35 am

    If you think about it, it’s not the number of customers that they based this decision on; it’s the dollar amount of the payments. Follow the money. The Jay peanut/cotton is where the real money is. There is a certain farmer in Chumuckla that has taken millions in government handouts over the last decade.
    We may have more farmers in Escambia but the real money is in the other county.

  17. Abe on November 30th, 2012 8:01 am

    @ northender: let me get this straight. You want me, the American taxpayer, to pay $16,000/ year so you don’t have to drive 68 miles round trip to get help from the government to run your business?

  18. Abe on November 30th, 2012 7:18 am

    I understand why we regulate and subsidize agriculture but the irony of the article and pics is obvious.

    Everyone wants smaller government but not when it comes to their slice of the entitlement pie. “Let’s make smart cuts” like to any welfare or handout programs that don’t affect me. Let’s start with the “real welfare queens” not us hardworking farmers that deserve the help we get from the government.

  19. Crawford on November 30th, 2012 6:57 am

    Not broke enough to keep our president from taking another 4 million dollar vacation though.

  20. northender43 on November 30th, 2012 6:51 am

    ONCE AGAIN ESCAMBIA COUNTY GETS BLACK BALLED!!! I don’t know how they are justifying this. From my house (near tungoil and 97) to the milton office is 37 miles (google maps). To Brewton is 34 miles. I don’t see how they are justifying this. Yes it is a small office but the volume of business should speak more than anything else.

  21. Jane on November 30th, 2012 5:34 am

    This is sad and will definitely hurt our farmers here. I’m sorry to see this happen.

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