By SHELLY STRAUTZ-SPRINGBORN
LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Department of Agriculture (MDA) permanently closed eight of its offices last week in a move to save about $600,000.
MDA Director Don Koivisto announced the closure of the department’s regional offices located in Detroit, Escanaba, Grand Rapids, Lansing, Saginaw, St. Joseph and Traverse City and its district office in Marquette. MDA will continue to have field staff working around the state, using their homes as an office base.
“MDA’s regional offices are an important part of the department’s ability to deliver its programs to our customers; however, budget realities are causing us to look at different ways of doing business,” said Koivisto. “While we anticipate there will be some bumps in the road as we transition to this new business model, MDA will work hard to maintain the high level of customer service we have always provided.”
“The main difference is out customers no longer have a brick and mortar location to go to for service,” said Jennifer Holton, spokeswoman for the Department of Agriculture.
She said in addition to the office closures, “there were staff reductions.” The agency employs about 500 people.
The exact number of people who lost their jobs to the closures was not immediately available, but Holton estimated it at nine.
Across the state, the MDA used its regional offices as bases of operations for investigations, product sampling, plant pest and disease eradication, emergency incident management and response, foodborne illness outbreak response, staff training, field equipment and evidence storage.
In addition, office staff would accept consumer complaints about food products, conditions of food establishments, nursery plants, insect pests and other topics, and would handle licensing and regulatory questions including accepting fee and fine payments. Agricultural producers also would visit a regional office for assistance when applying for a variety of federal and state farming assistance programs.
Effective Oct. 1, customers calling MDA’s regional and district offices have been redirected to a toll free number in Lansing, at 800-292-3939. The office’s general e-mail address is mda-info @michigan.gov and online complaint forms are available at www.michigan.gov/mdacomplaints