USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced a plan that helps agricultural producers continue to drive America's economy by streamlining operations and cutting costs. USDA's Blueprint for Stronger Service will meet the evolving needs of a 21st century agricultural economy, according to Vilsack.

"The USDA, like families and businesses across the country, cannot continue to operate like we did 50 years ago," said Vilsack. We must build on the record accomplishments of farm communities in 2011 with a stronger, more effective USDA in 2012 and beyond."

The USDA will close 259 domestic offices, facilities and labs across the country, as well as seven foreign offices. In some cases, offices are no longer staffed or have a very small staff of one or two people; many are within 20 miles of other USDA offices. In other cases, technology improvements, advanced service centers, and broadband service have reduced some need for brick and mortar facilities.

When fully implemented, these actions along with other recommended changes will provide efficiencies valued at about $150 million annually-and eventually more based on future realignment of the workforce-and will ensure that USDA continues to provide optimal service to the American people within available funding levels.

These actions and plans to close or consolidate facility, office and lab operations will impact USDA headquarters in Washington and in 46 states and 1 U.S. territory.

  • Farm Service Agency (FSA): Consolidate 131 county offices in 32 states; more than 2,100 FSA offices remain throughout the United States
  • Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS): Close 2 country offices; more than 95 FAS offices remain throughout the world
  • Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS): Close 15 APHIS offices in 11 states and 5 APHIS offices in 5 foreign countries; more than 560 APHIS offices remain throughout the United States and 55 remain throughout the world
  • Rural Development (RD): Close 43 area and sub offices in 17 states and U.S. territories; approximately 450 RD offices remain throughout the United States
  • Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS): Close 24 soil survey offices in 21 states; more than 2,800 NRCS offices remain throughout the United States
  • Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS): Close 5 district offices in 5 states; 10 district offices remain throughout the United States
  • Agricultural Research Service (ARS): Close 12 programs at 10 locations; more than 240 programs remain throughout the United States
  • Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services (FNCS): Close 31 field offices in 28 states; 32 FNCS offices will remain throughout the United States

The Secretary detailed the changes in a speech at the American Farm Bureau Federation's 93rd Annual Meeting.

National Farmers Union (NFU) expressed disappointment after Vilsack announced the closures. “It should come as no surprise that FSA and other USDA service and research facilities are closing because of the continued emphasis on spending reduction,” said NFU Vice President of Government Relations Chandler Goule. “A ‘cut first, ask questions later’ attitude in Congress toward investing in agriculture and rural America is now showing its true cost to farmers, ranchers and rural citizens with these closures. Agriculture cannot be continually asked to do more than its fair share to resolve our nation’s deficit problems – our leaders must look elsewhere to find solutions.”

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Source: USDA, NFU