Agriculture agencies reorganize, plan moves

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Agencies in the Department of Agriculture are consolidating and moving offices in reorganizations.

USDA administrators have been considering sites in 35 states as possible new homes for offices of the Economic Research Service and National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said in an August announcement that he plans to select one or more sites for those offices by January 2019, and employees will leave the Washington, D.C., region by late 2019.

The move is intended to bring USDA offices closer to stakeholders, reduce employment costs and rent, and attract staff interested in agriculture, especially among people from land-grant universities.

Current employees would be given opportunities to move with their jobs.

Veterinary Services, part of the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, also consolidated import-export centers from six to four as well as district offices from six to four, effective Oct. 15. But the agency is keeping the same number of employees.

In a letter to stakeholders, Dr. Jack A. Shere, chief veterinary officer and deputy administrator of Veterinary Services, noted that Veterinary Services reorganized five years ago. Employees and agency partners, in government and industry, since have suggested further changes, and APHIS was adjusting in response.

"We are simply consolidating expertise and shifting reporting structures so we can provide better customer service," he said.

USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service officials also announced in October plans to reorganize their agency with a "business center" model promoted by the agriculture secretary. But that change would have no effects on job positions, grade levels, salaries, or work locations. Some responsibilities may shift, but daily work will remain the same, the announcement states.