Federal Agency Move from Ellsworth to Bangor Raises Concerns 

A federal agency that helps private land owners in Hancock County will soon be moving out of Ellsworth and into Bangor.But some of the dozens of farmers and foresters who turn to the Natural Resources Conservation Service are questioning the move. In less than three weeks the Natural Resources Conservation Service field office in Hancock County in Ellsworth will have a new home. Juan Hernandez, the State Conservationist for the USDA, which oversees the agency, says it’ll save at least $24,000 a year and make better use of space in Bangor, which is practically empty.”Tt would have been irresponsible of me not to look at how to be more efficient and effective into how we conduct business in the state of Maine. It’s my responsibility as a state accounting holder. This is unavoidable.””Farming is growing in Hancock County and our concern is with growth a lot of young farmers are coming into Hancock County, a lot folks managing land,” says Lawton Vogel. “We need to have a physical presence of the USDA in Ellsworth.”Vogel is on the Hancock County Soil and Water Conservation District Boards of Directors. He’s also a concerned farmer.”The whole idea of the importance of having the county farm agent in the community is that the district conservationist, who is the quote-un-quote farm agent, they’re boots on the ground. They’re going out, talking to farmers, looking at fields, doing projects.”Hernandez says that won’t change when the two people in the NRCS office move.One will do more telecommuting, working partly from his home on MDI to avoid a drive to Bangor.”Yes, some of the customers will have to go to Bangor that said a lot of our customers already are visiting the Bangor field office to do business with the Farm Service Agency, our sister agency within the USDA.”Vogel fears, in the end, the decision will hurt low-income farmers and foresters.He says supporters of the Ellsworth office are now taking their concerns to Maine lawmakers in Washington, D.C.”For our district conservationist to have to drive to Bangor and then drive back to service people in Hancock County, it’s going to cause us a loss of services. It just doesn’t make sense.”