WASHINGTON – The US Department of Agriculture announced on Jan. 9 plans to close 259 domestic offices, facilities and laboratories across the country in addition to seven foreign offices. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the plan would help streamline the agency's operations and cut costs.
USDA said the closures involve offices that have no staff or are run by one or two people. Many of the offices to be closed are within 20 miles of other USDA offices. Technology improvements, advanced service centers and broadband service have reduced the need for some brick and mortar facilities, according to the agency.
Called the Blueprint for Stronger Service, the plan is based on an agency-wide operations review, according to USDA. The review is part of the Obama administration's Campaign to Cut Waste. The annual cost savings is estimated at $150 million.
"In the past few decades, US agriculture has become the second most productive sector of the American economy, thanks to farmers adopting technology, reducing debt, and effectively managing risk," Vilsack said. "These are lessons from which we can all learn."
The plan will impact USDA headquarters in Washington and locations in 46 states and one US 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 US 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.
USDA implemented additional changes the agency said would save taxpayer dollars. USDA plans to:
- Consolidate more than 700 cell phone plans into about 10;
- Standardize civil rights training and purchases of cyber security products; and
- Ensure more efficient and effective service to our employees by moving toward more centralized civil rights, human resource, procurement, and property management functions, creating millions of dollars in efficiencies without sacrificing the quality of our work.