United States Department of Agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack told reporters that a USDA plan to close 259 domestic offices as part of a $150 million budget-cutting measure will have “no impact whatsoever” on food safety, according to an article from Bloomberg.
Closings of facilities related to food safety may not happen until after Oct. 1 and will only affect administrative personnel, Vilsack said during a conference call with reporters. County offices that oversee farm programs may close before then.
“We have to get our fiscal house in order,” Vilsack said during a conference call. “That’s going to involve tough calls.”
The closings are in response to about $3 billion in cuts to the USDA’s operating budget since 2010, Vilsack said. Further economy measures will be considered as Congress begins debate this year on the next farm bill, where subsidies to growers of wheat, corn, soybeans and cotton are on the table, said Vilsack. At least $23 billion worth of reductions in farm spending are expected over the next 10 years.
The plan, announced Jan. 10, includes closing 131 of the 2,100 Farm Service Agency offices in 32 states. In addition, 15 of the more than 575 U.S. offices of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service will be shuttered. Research facilities and rural development offices will be affected, and seven USDA offices overseas will be closed. Total savings will amount to about 1 percent of the department’s annual spending.
Vilsack added that he does not envision “significant disruptions to service.”