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A Blueprint for Savings at the Agricultural Research Service

On January 9, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack put forth USDA’s “Blueprint for Stronger Service” which focuses on streamlining operations and cutting costs throughout the Department.

The “Blueprint for Stronger Service” calls for USDA to close 259 domestic offices, facilities and laboratories, as well as taking business-related actions such as consolidating cell phone plans across the Department, standardizing civil rights training and purchase of cybersecurity products, and centralizing activities related to civil rights, human resources, procurement and property management.

The Agricultural Research Service (ARS), the Department’s chief scientific research agency, operates research facilities across the nation.  ARS research is vital to keeping our food supply safe and abundant, helping our farmers and producers continue their work in the face of dramatically shifting weather patterns, and unlocking the fundamental genomics of biofuel feedstocks that will help our nation into a clean energy future.

However, tightening budgets have required ARS to find new ways to address those priorities.  To that end, ARS is in the process of closing 12 of its research programs at 10 locations in 2012.

These units include Subarctic Agricultural Research  in Fairbanks, Alaska; Western Integrated Cropping Systems Research in Shafter, California; Beef Cattle Research in Brooksville, Florida; Southern Piedmont Conservation Research  in Watkinsville, Georgia; North Appalachian Experimental Watershed Research in Coshocton, Ohio; Genetics and Production Research in Lane, Oklahoma; Cotton Quality Research Unit in Clemson, South Carolina; the Kika de la Garza Subtropical Agricultural Research Center in Weslaco, Texas; and the  Appalachian Farming Systems Research Center in Beaver, West Virginia.  ARS also is ending its Formosan Subterranean Termite Research in New Orleans, Louisiana.

ARS is streamlining its business operations, consolidating activities such as human resources and procurement into three “business service centers.”  Users will submit business action requests via a web-based portal.

ARS collaborates with university and industry partners on vital research, and is establishing partnerships with other federal agencies such as NOAA, NASA, and the Environmental Protection Agency, as well as international research groups such as the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, to leverage resources and support cutting-edge discovery, learning and outreach programs.

In FY11, ARS cut its travel costs by approximately 28 percent from the past year, and the ARS printing fund has been cut by more than half.  While continuing to serve the research needs of American agriculture and the nation, ARS is committed to “doing more with less.”

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