WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Tuesday that it plans to shutter Farm Service Agency offices in nine rural Arkansas counties, including Bradley County.

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Tuesday that it plans to shutter Farm Service Agency offices in nine rural Arkansas counties, including Bradley County.

There are 61 FSA offices in Arkansas. The nine counties that will lose their FSA offices are: Benton, Bradley, Faulkner, Fulton, Garland, Izard, Johnson, Logan and Pulaski.

In January, USDA announced plans to close 131 FSA county offices across the nation including 10 in Arkansas. After public input, only six were spared including the office in Lafayette County in Arkansas.

“FSA is striving to balance budget reductions, staff reductions, and increasing workloads while focusing the efforts of agency staff on continuing to provide high quality service from the remaining 2,119 office locations,” USDA said in a press release.

Farmers in those counties would still be eligible for USDA assistance but would be assigned to different counties.

Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro, has introduced legislation that would temporarily block USDA from closing the offices and have them base future closings on an office’s workload.

USDA said it was closing offices that are located less than 20 miles from another FSA office and that had two or fewer permanent, full-time employees.

Crawford said that there was strong opposition in Fulton and Izard counties to the proposed closings. The offices are well used, share a director and pay their own way through administrative fees, he said.

Under his proposal, the closings would be delayed until USDA evaluates workloads for each office it plans to close.

Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., issued a statement saying he was disappointed by USDA’s announcement and would continue to “seek out alternatives” to ensure all Arkansas farmers received the services they need.

“USDA must be part of government-wide efforts to reduce spending but it should do so in a smart, consistent and objective manner. USDA failed this test when deciding which FSA offices to close,” Pryor said.

Rep. Tim Griffin, R-Little Rock, also said he was disappointed by the decision and would continue working to “ensure farmers in Faulkner County and all of central Arkansas” have access to critical FSA services.