Tuesday, January 10, 2012

USDA to close 250 offices nationwide

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced yesterday that the USDA is closing some 250 offices across the country, including 131 Farm Service Agency offices. The closures will save $150 million per year and are part of the across-the-board federal budget cuts. "We must innovate, modernize and be better stewards of the taxpayers' dollars," Vilsack told members of the American Farm Bureau Federation at a conference in Honolulu.

In Oregon, the closures will include FSA offices in John Day, Tillamook and Dallas, plus an Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) office in Salem. Vilsack said the closures are part of a Blueprint for Stronger Service which will make the agency more efficient and effective. Agency officials pointed out that most of the offices to be closed have duplicate offices nearby. For example, in Oregon, numerous FSA offices will remain open, as will the other Oregon APHIS office in Portland. In the state of Washington, no offices will be closed. Along with the closures, the USDA announced an intent to streamline certain regulatory processes. APHIS is one example. From an APHIS fact sheet:
APHIS is dramatically reducing times for programmatic processes and procedures, cutting wait time by 20 to 76 percent and enhancing business competiveness, by:
  • Streamlining risk assessment and rulemaking processes for imported animal and plant products;
  • Reducing length and variability of time it takes to make determinations on petitions for nonregulated status for genetically engineered plants; and
  • Streamlining the enforcement process against those who jeopardize plant and animal health and animal welfare to focus on the most serious violators and resolve typical cases in substantially less time.

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