Perdue announces further USDA office realignments | Ag News

Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue Sept. 7 announced the realignment of a number of offices within the U.S. Department of Agriculture to “improve customer service and maximize efficiency,” according to a USDA release.

“The actions involve innovation, consolidation and the rearrangement of certain offices into more logical organizational reporting structures,” Perdue said.

The changes build on the reorganization Perdue announced in May. As with the previous realignment, this announced restructuring comes with the intention of handling any staffing changes through attrition or reassignment.

The realignments include:

 

Advancing trade

While reviewing options for improving coordination on trade and international activities, USDA determined that the Codex Alimentarius program, currently housed in the Food Safety and Inspection Service, is to be moved to the newly created TFAA mission area. The U.S. Codex Office is an interagency partnership that engages stakeholders in the development of international governmental and non-governmental food standards. The focus of the Codex Office aligns better with the mission of TFAA, Perdue said.

 

Driving rural development

A report with concrete actions on statutes to be enacted or repealed; regulations to be promulgated, amended or eliminated; and programs and policies to be implemented, streamlined or discarded will be provided to President Trump in late October.

 

Concentrating industry engagement

The realignment announced in May reconstituted and renamed a mission area headed by the under secretary for farm production and conservation. Under the newly organized FPAC mission area, the Farm Service Agency, the Risk Management Agency and the Natural Resources Conservation Service were realigned to report to the renamed undersecretary. The changes to some programs are made to fit them into more logical places to help better coordinate service to USDA customers.

Rather than have commodity procurement in multiple agencies of the USDA, the International Food Commodity Procurement program currently in the FSA will merge into the domestic Commodity Food Procurement program in the Agricultural Marketing Service AMS. This action will consolidate commodity procurement activities across the USDA and allow for greater efficiencies in the acquisition of commodities.

Also, instead of having commodity grading and inspection in multiple USDA agencies, the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration GIPSA will be merged into AMS.

Currently, GIPSA and AMS both carry out grading activities and work to ensure fair trade practices. Specific to fair trade practice work, the new structure will contain a program area composed of the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act Program and the Packers and Stockyards Program, as well as some other regulatory activities AMS is currently directed to carry out.

In addition, this new program area will have the responsibility to carry out Warehouse Act functions currently being provided by FSA. The grain inspection activities will become a separate program area in AMS. These improvements will provide a unified USDA presence focused not on programs, but on customers and the services they are provided.

In addition, FPAC is undertaking a customer engagement review to better understand what is working and what needs improvement so that USDA can best support farmers and producers today and in the future.

In a joint statement, the leaders of the National Grain and Feed Association and the North American Grain Export Association hailed the changes.

“We strongly support this much-needed realignment of FGIS within AMS, which we believe will help the agency better fulfill its statutory obligation to provide reliable, accurate, timely, impartial and cost-effective services,” NGFA President Randy Gordon and NAEGA President and Chief Executive Officer Gary Martin said in a statement.

 

Reducing redundancies

While creating the Farm Production and Conservation mission area, it became apparent that across USDA there are redundancies and inefficiencies in the mission support activities. Some agencies maintain redundant administrative support functions, including human resources, information technology, finance, procurement and property management.

Therefore, mission support activities will be merged at the mission area level across USDA. Through these mergers, the mission areas will not only increase operational efficiencies, but also maximize collaboration between agencies that serve similar customers. This has happened in many of the support activities in mission areas already and is working well.

 

Focusing nutrition efforts

In order to better serve the nutritional needs of USDA customers, the new blueprint calls for merging the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion into the Food and Nutrition Service.

Instead of having a politically appointed administrator of CNPP, the agency will be headed by a career associate administrator. Incorporating CNPP into FNS will improve administrative efficiencies and allow closer integration of the work of these two agencies.

 

Engaging customers

In an effort to create a consistent customer-focused outreach effort, the USDA will create an Office of Partnerships and Public Engagement by grouping the following offices together: the Office of Advocacy and Outreach; the Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships staff; the Office of Tribal Relations; and the Military Veterans Liaison. Each office will retain its own character and identity, and continue to communicate with its core constituency, but this realignment will ensure a more coordinated and consistent approach, officials say, adding this will result in improved service and enhanced engagement with USDA’s customers.

 

Realigning pest management

The new alignment moves the Office of Pest Management Policy from the Agricultural Research Service to the Office of the Chief Economist. OPMP coordinates the USDA role in the pesticide regulatory process and related interagency affairs. Its focus does not coincide with the mission of ARS and can be better situated in the Office of the Chief Economist, officials said.

Larry Dreiling can be reached at 785-628-1117 or ldreiling@hpj.com.

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