The state office of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency recommends closing seven county offices as part of a national effort to cut costs. “The closure of FSA offices across the state has been a very hard decision, but has been developed from the bottom up,” state FSA Director Randy Johnson said in a press release. “Through the closure process we can place FSA employees where the workload is and strategically position the agency for future demands,” Johnson said. “We cannot continue to spread too few employees and dollars over too many offices.” An earlier effort which would have closed six state offices, and more than 700 nationally, was abandoned in October 2005 because of widespread opposition in Congress. This year, the state FSA is recommending closing offices in Helena, White Sulphur Springs, Livingston, Hamilton, Plains, Big Timber and Hysham. Those offices would be consolidating with offices in neighboring counties, and the 10 employees affected would be offered jobs in those counties. The state FSA plan also calls for increasing the use of the Internet, e-mail, faxes and toll-free phone numbers to cut down the number of times farmers would need to visit FSA offices. The FSA would still hold meetings, sign-ups and FSA office days in the counties where offices are recommended for closure, the plan says. Public meetings will also be held in the communities affected by the office closures.