USDA to close 259 facilities

Staff and wire reports

DES MOINES, Iowa — The U.S. Department of Agriculture will close 259 domestic offices, labs and other facilities as part of an effort to save $150 million per year, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced Monday.

While the closures and other cost-cutting steps will affect the USDA headquarters in Washington and operations in 46 states, the savings will be relatively small in the context of the agency’s $145 billion budget.

The closures follow a review of USDA operations done as part of the Obama administration’s efforts to cut waste, Vilsack said.

“We must innovate, modernize and be better stewards of the taxpayers’ dollars,” he said in a prepared statement released before his speech before the American Farm Bureau Federation in Honolulu.

The USDA did not immediately provide details on which offices would be closed or whether employees would be laid off. An outline given to The Associated Press before Vilsack’s speech said many offices had few employees or were near others.

Some closures had already been announced. The USDA said last year it would shut down 10 agricultural research stations, including the only one in Alaska, as the Obama administration looked to cut $42 million from the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service budget.

Attempts to contact USDA officials for Clovis and Portales were unsuccessful Monday, and an official at the Fort Sumner Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services office said the office had received no details beyond the press reports.