Plan will involve workforce "realignment," but department says all employees will be given options to stay with USDA.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack unveiled a plan Monday to overhaul and streamline the department's operations, an effort that will involve closing hundreds of USDA installations around the country.
Under the plan, known as the Blueprint for Stronger Service, the department will close 259 domestic offices, facilities and labs in the United States, and seven foreign offices.
They include the following closures:
- The Farm Service Agency will consolidate 131 county offices in 32 states.
- The Foreign Agricultural Service will close two country offices.
- The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service will close 15 offices in 11 states and five offices in foreign countries.
- The Rural Development division will close 43 area and sub-offices in 17 states and U.S. territories.
- The Natural Resources Conservation Service will close 24 soil survey offices in 21 states.
- The Food Safety and Inspection Service will close five district offices in five states.
- The Agricultural Research Service will close 12 programs at 10 locations.
- The Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services unit will close 31 field offices in 28 states.
Agriculture officials said that many of the offices slated for closure are no longer staffed or have very small staffs. They said the consolidation of offices, along with other actions, would save about $150 million each year.
The department said that further savings would ultimately come from "future realignment of the workforce." A USDA spokesperson said, "all permanent full-time employees will be given options to stay with the department, and we are doing everything feasible to minimize the impact on employees. These decisions were not made lightly."
"The USDA, like families and businesses across the country, cannot continue to operate like we did 50 years ago," said Vilsack. "We must innovate, modernize, and be better stewards of the taxpayers' dollars."