Harvest Public Media
8:40 am
Tue January 10, 2012

USDA Announces Closure Of 259 Facilities

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Monday that it will close 259 of its facilities as part of an effort to save about $150 million.

The closings will encompass offices, labs and other operations. The plan will affect the USDA's Washington D.C. headquarters, facilities in 46 states and its international operations. The USDA’s budget is currently about $145 billion.

The cost-cutting moves are part of a bid to streamline USDA operations, called The Blueprint For Stronger Service, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

"The USDA, like families and businesses across the country, cannot continue to operate like we did 50 years ago," Vilsack said in a release. "We must innovate, modernize, and be better stewards of the taxpayers' dollars."

The agency did not announce which specific facilities it plans on closing in its initial release, but did provide a list of impacted offices. Ten facilities in Missouri are slated for closure, as well as four in Iowa, three in Kansas and one in Nebraska.

The agency maintains that the cost savings won’t hinder its ability to serve rural areas. According to the release:

In some cases, offices are no longer staffed or have a very small staff of one or two people; many are within 20 miles of other USDA offices. In other cases, technology improvements, advanced service centers, and broadband service have reduced some need for brick and mortar facilities.

The Farm Service Agency, a division of USDA, will consolidate 131 county offices in 32 states. The agency will still run more than 2,000 FSA offices.

Vilsack made the announcement in a speech at the American Farm Bureau Federation's annual meeting in Des Moines.

Harvest Public Media reports on agriculture in the Midwest. Funded by a grant from the Corporation for Public Media, Harvest is a collaborative effort of KCUR and five other NPR member stations. To learn more, visit www.harvestpublicmedia.org.