Agriculture offers another round of buyouts

The Agriculture Department is again offering buyouts and early outs - this time to nearly 2,000 employees in its Rural Development division.

Citing the department's budget crunch, Undersecretary for Rural Development Dallas Tonsager on Oct. 7 sent agency administrators and state directors a memorandum announcing Rural Development will offer 1,966 buyouts. The buyouts can be used in conjunction with early retirements, which will be available to all eligible employees, the memo stated.

"As Secretary [Tom] Vilsack has indicated, the fiscal situation for fiscal year 2012 and beyond has necessitated a serious reexamination of priorities," Tonsager wrote. "This has resulted in the determination that many agencies will operate as restructured and leaner organizations."

Employees who accept the buyout offer will receive the maximum available payment of $25,000, the memo said. But these payments are likely to decrease if USDA engages in subsequent rounds of separation incentives, the notice cautioned. Employees have until Oct. 31 to accept the offer, and must retire no later than Dec. 3.

Engineers, information technology specialists and supervisory information technology specialists are exempt because their jobs have been deemed critical to USDA's mission and difficult to fill.

USDA offered 544 buyouts and unlimited early outs in May. It is one of many federal agencies giving employees incentives to leave voluntarily, in the face of increasingly tight budgets.

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