Update on Reorganization
Since Secretary Mike Espy outlined the new structure for USDA on September 7, 1993, he has testified on his ideas for the new USDA in Congress. A reorganization bill, HR 3171, has been introduced in the House of Representatives and the subject of extensive filed hearings around the country. A Senate reorganization bill is expected to be introduced soon. Action in Congress is expected in the Spring.
Once the Washington, D.C. headquarters reorganization bill has passed the Congress, the Secretary will move to finalize the new structure of USDA. As promised by the Secretary, field office restructuring will soon follow to implement the new USDA structure.
Focus on the Six Missions
During his confirmation hearings, then Secretary-designate Mike Espy promised the USDA would respond to the call for change with restructuring of the headquarters, followed by a streamlining of the field structure.
Secretary Espy proposes to restructure USDA would respond to the call for change with restructuring of the headquarters, followed by a streamlining of the field structure.
Secretary Espy proposes to restructure USDA along six mission lines to create a streamlined and revitalized department. At the headquarters level, the number of separate USDA agencies and offices will be reduced from 43 to 30. Administrative services will be consolidated to reduce the existing 14 support staffs.
When fully implemented, the restructuring will realize an anticipated annual savings of $43 million and a decrease in headquarters staffing by about seven percent.
Creating the New USDA
The Secretary established several key principles that the proposal to restructure USDA must meet. First, the new structure must improve the delivery of service to USDA customers. Second, any plan must remain consistent with the mandated missions of USDA. Third, the new USDA should make the department a better place for employees. Fourth, the new structure must save the taxpayers' money.
Both the USDA headquarters and field structure reflect the Secretary's strong desire to provide improved customer service. While the headquarters restructuring focuses on combining similar functions to create efficiency and better service, the field reorganization focuses on creating one-stop shopping for USDA's customers.
The new field structure will streamline the current Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service (ASCS), Farmers Home Administration (FmHA) and Soil Conservation Services (SCS) county offices to create new USDA Service Centers. Through collocation, common service and computer areas, the Secretary's plan will reduce the number of USDA field offices.
The One-Stop Service Center
Sharing of resources among the agencies of USDA is the primary thrust of the Secretary's new field plan. Consolidating field offices to provide better service is the goal of the new USDA Service Centers. Providing customer access to all USDA programs in one Service Center will generate both cost savings and a more efficient delivery of services. Each new Center will serve customers from areas ranging from one to six counties.
Under the Espy plan, each state will be assigned an optimum number of Service Centers to handle the field duties of the old ASCS, FmHA and SCS. Other USDA field offices are expected to be consolidated within the new Service Centers.
Bringing field operations under one roof will help achieve the Secretary's goal of creating a "Team USDA" spirit among all employees. Sharing space, services, and equipment will lower overhead costs while creating one-stop shopping for farmers.
Better Service for Farmers
Under the Under Secretary for Farm and International Trade Services, USDA will meet Secretary Espy's goals of improving farm income, simplifying and improving service to farmers. A new single agency, the Farm Service Agency, will provide commodity price and income support, farm loans and crop insurance.
Merged into the new Farm Service Agency will be the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service (ASCS), the farmer programs currently located in the Farmers Home Administration (FmHA) and the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation (FCIC). Policy guidance for the conservation cost-share programs from ADCS will be transferred to a new conservation agency.
The integration of domestic and international farm programs will continue to be managed by the Under Secretary. The new International Trade Agricultural Service Agency will combine the Foreign Agricultural Service with the Office of International Cooperation and Development.
A new organization reporting to the Secretary will be the National Appeals Division. The division. This division will combine the appeals divisions of the current FmHA farmer programs and ASCS.
Marking Rural Development a Priority
To promote the President's rural agenda, Espy will focus rural development work in three new organizations reporting to the Under Secretary for Rural Economic and Community Development.
The Rural Utilities Service will combine the telephone and electric programs of the Rural Electrification Administration (REA) with the water and sewer programs of the Rural Development Administration (RDA).
The Rural Community Development Service will included FmHA rural housing programs as well as RDA and REA rural community loan programs. The Rural Business and Cooperative Development Service will include the RDA and REA business development programs, the Agricultural Cooperative Service and the Alternative Agricultural Research and Commercialization Center.
Elevating Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services
To reflect the importance of USDA's food and nutrition programs and related federal outlays, the Assistant Secretary for Food and Consumer Services will be elevated to the Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services.
A newly created Food and Consumer Service would combine the current Food and Nutrition Service with the Office of the Consumer Advisor. The renamed Nutrition Research and Education Service would focus on the Secretary's goal of merging nutrition education with USDA food delivery programs.
New Emphasis on Conservation Programs
A comprehensive program of conservation will be the primary responsibility of the new Natural Resources Conservation Service. The current Soil Conservation Service will be combined with ASCS conservation cost-share programs. The Forest Service, although remaining a separate agency, is now undergoing significant internal review.
The Assistant Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment will also administer the Office of Agricultural Environmental Quality which will provide guidance on pesticides, water quality and other environmental issues.
Ensuring Food Quality and Safety
While the structure of the three agencies under the Assistant Secretary for Marketing and Inspection Services will remain unchanged, emphasis will be placed on aggressive regulatory actions to maintain and heighten the safety and quality of the food supply. One of the Secretary's primary goals is reforming meat and poultry inspection.
Combining the Federal Grain Inspection Service with the Packers and Stockyards Administration will produce savings and will keep the focus of each organization on its current mission.
Research and Economics Combined
USDA's traditional commitment to strong research and education programs will be enhanced through the combination of the Agricultural Research Service, the Extension Service, the Cooperative State Research Service and the National Agricultural Library into the new Agricultural Research and Education Service. The Economic Research Service will be combined with the Office of Energy. Also reporting to the new Assistant Secretary for Research, Education, and Economics will be the National Agricultural Statistics Service.
Stronger Executive Support
A newly configured support team for the Secretary will include a Chief Economist, the Office of Budget and Program Analysis and the Office of the Executive Secretariat. Under the Chief Economist will be the Economic Analysis Staff and the Word Agricultural Outlook Board.
Tighter Financial Oversight
The Chief Financial Officer (CFO) will direct and oversee the financial management of the Department. The Office of Finance and Management will report directly to the CFO.
To reflect the importance of one of the Department's historical missions, information dissemination, the Secretary proposes to raise the Director of Public Affairs to the new Assistant Secretary for Communications. The new Office of Communications will play a stronger departmental role in delivering timely and accurate information to USDA customers.
Broaden Governmental Relations
To broaden the role of Congressional Relations to include all levels of government, the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs will be transferred from the Office of Public Affairs. The Assistant Secretary for Congressional and Intergovernmental-Relations will have responsibility for creating strong relationships with Congress, state, local and tribal governments (American Indians/Alaska Native).
Commitment to Equal Opportunity in Administration
While the functions under the Assistant Secretary for Administration remain unchanged, the Office of Advocacy and Enterprise is being strengthened and reorganized to reflect the Secretary's commitment to equal opportunity and fair treatment. In addition, the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization will report directly to the Assistant Secretary.
Meeting the Challenges
The new USDA will provide a better level of services at a lower cost through a more efficient use of resources. The Secretary hopes to realize $2.3 billion in savings and a total staff reduction of 7,500 employees over the next five years, by implementing the new headquarters and field structures, and improving program service and delivery. The Secretary has joined the President to stop unnecessary spending. Some of the areas already identified include paring down USDA's current $29 million publications budget, eliminating unnecessary office space, changing how USDA manages its motor vehicle fleet and applying new technology aggressively.
The Secretary has pledged to achieve the necessary staff reductions over the next five years through attrition and retirements. He remains firmly committed to a diverse workforce. The Secretary supports the retirement options being pursued by the President, including government wide buy-out authority.
Return to NPR Home Page