USDA Considers Consolidation

Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman is considering an "administrative convergence" of the Agriculture Department's Farm Service Agency, the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the divisions that handle rural development aid, congressional sources and farm lobbyists told CongressDaily.

The plan is Glickman's answer to simultaneous budgetary pressures from Congress and the Office of Management and Budget to close FSA offices and from Congress not to close local offices.

Under the plan, a local office could be staffed by an FSA, NRCS or rural development employee who would be expected to handle basic questions from the public on programs administered by all three agencies. More technical questions would be referred to higher-level personnel of each agency.

The plan follows a summit Glickman held June 9 with OMB and congressional agricultural leaders to discuss the future of the FSA and farm programs. A Glickman spokesman Monday called the meeting "an informal beginning to a long process," and said nothing would occur without "lengthy involvement of Congress and personnel in the field."

The meeting, held in Glickman's office, was proposed by Sen. Bob Kerrey, D-Neb., although Kerrey did not attend. Those participating were Senate Agriculture Chairman Lugar and ranking member Tom Harkin, D-Iowa; House Agriculture Forestry, Resource Conservation and Research Subcommittee Chairman Larry Combest, R-Texas; House Agriculture ranking member Charles Stenholm, D-Texas; and House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Joe Skeen, R-N.M. Aides to those members also participated, as did OMB officials.

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