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Secretary’s Column: A Blueprint for Stronger Service at USDA

Last week, I announced a Blueprint for Stronger Service at USDA.  It is our effort to make sure that in this era of reduced budgets, the folks who live, work and raise their families in rural America don’t see reduced services from the Department.

Over the past three years, USDA has made significant investments in rural America and supported farmers and ranchers.  Today the farm economy is thriving, with record income and exports – and the unemployment figure in rural America has fallen faster than in other parts of the country.

But these are tough times.  Since 2010, USDA’s budget has been cut by $3 billion dollars – a 12% reduction.  To help preserve the success we’re seeing in the countryside, we had to take a close look at the way we do business with less money, a smaller staff, and more complex programs.

Over the past year, USDA has offered early retirement for our staff and substantially reduced our travel and supplies budgets.  We took a comprehensive look at our administrative services to find savings in areas like technology and human resources.  It was not enough.  In order to avoid layoffs or furloughs we looked at our footprint across the country and made plans to close and consolidate more than 250 offices, many of which have only one or two employees.

While this was a tough call, the other option was an interruption in service that results from furloughs and employee layoffs – and we’re committed to avoiding that path.  Instead, we have a plan that will create optimal use of USDA’s employees, better results for USDA customers, and greater efficiencies for American taxpayers.  You can learn more about it at our website USDA.gov/StrongerService.

Like families and businesses across the country, USDA cannot continue to operate as we did 50 years ago.  The Blueprint allows us to keep our commitment to streamlining services for farmers and ranchers – and making more services available online.  It will allow us to innovate, modernize, and be better stewards of the taxpayers’ dollars.  It means we’ll build a stronger department to meet the evolving needs of rural communities and the agricultural economy in the 21st century.

You can also find the audio version of the weekly message here.

3 Responses to “Secretary’s Column: A Blueprint for Stronger Service at USDA”

  1. Robert Higgins says:

    Two simple ways to save money – stop the installation of GPS tracking on vehicles – waste of money and Google Latitude does it free, force ITS to allow employees to be able to get calendar and email on the web and smartphones!

  2. Brian Lehman says:

    Closing the FSA office in Morgan County Missouri will also result in the closing of NRCS. The blueprint really needs to be reevaluated after the new farmbill comes out. It’s time for farmers to save rural America, we can not afford to lose these services.

  3. Frank says:

    http://www.manufacturing.net/news/2012/01/usda-proposes-streamlining-poultry-inspections

    USDA Proposes Streamlining Poultry Inspections
    Fri, 01/20/2012 – 12:48pm
    Mary Clare Jalonick, Associated Press
    Get today’s manufacturing headlines and news – Sign up now!

    WASHINGTON (AP) — The Agriculture Department is proposing to reduce the number of government inspectors at poultry slaughter plants.

    Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says about 1,000 government inspector jobs at poultry plants would be phased out as companies take over the job of looking for visual flaws like bruises in chickens on the processing line.

    Vilsack says the move will shift inspectors to jobs more important to food safety, like sampling for pathogens and keeping conditions sanitary.

    The secretary says the move could save the government as much as $95 million in the first three years.

    The chicken industry supports the plan. Consumer group Food and Water Watch opposes it, saying it gives poultry producers too much control over inspections.

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