WASHINGTON – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack informed Congress Feb. 27 that he has approved the consolidation of 131 Farm Service Agency (FSA) offices with other USDA service centers, which will occur in 90 days. The Blueprint for Stronger Service plan, announced Jan. 9, laid out plans to help streamline the agency’s operations and cut costs. The Blueprint included USDA's plan to close 259 domestic offices, facilities and labs, including the proposed closure of 131 FSA offices, and seven foreign offices.

As outlined in the 2008 Farm Bill, FSA held public meetings in every county in which an FSA office was proposed for consolidation. Members of the public were invited to make public comments at the meetings, and/or to submit comments in writing for up to 10 days following the public meeting. All comments were reviewed and considered prior to the issuance of the Secretary's notification letters to Congress.

By proposing to consolidate 131 offices nationwide, FSA is striving to balance budget reductions, staff reductions, and increasing workloads. There are still 2,113 remaining office locations.

According to USDA, when fully implemented, these office consolidation actions, along with other recommended changes, will provide efficiencies valued at about $150 million annually.

In addition, USDA is implementing a series of other changes that will save taxpayers' money while eliminating redundancies and inefficiencies. The Blueprint for Stronger Service details 133 recommendations that detail processes already in place, as well as 27 initial improvements, and other, longer-term improvements.

Detailed fact sheets on the Blueprint for Stronger Service can be found at www.usda.gov/strongerservice.