The USDA is cutting back in an effort to save money. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says the department will close 259 offices, labs, and other facilities, including 11 in Indiana.
It is part of a plan to save the department $150 million per year. Vilsack says the cuts were “a response to the fact the operating budget for the USDA has been cut by $3 billion between 2010 and 2012.”
Vilsack said they chose one of two paths the department could have taken. One option was to create “a comprehensive approach – looking at efficiencies, travel, conferences, supply purchases, personnel and retirement opportunities, process improvement and our physical footprint around the world.” The second option would have been “what is normally done, which is to furlough or reduce the number of usda employees by laying off the most recently hired.”
Vilsack says the first option was chosen because layoffs would have caused too much of a disruption in the department‘s services. The office closings include two in Indianapolis – the animal plant health inspection service office and the food and nutrition service office. A variety of USDA offices in Bloomington, Martinsville, Plymouth, South Bend, Crown Point, Lafayette, West Lafayette, and Laporte also will be shut down.
Vilsack says the department was able to avoid layoffs because around 7,000 employees accepted an early retirement offer last year. He says they will attempt to move employees from offices that are closing elsewhere within the USDA.