Ag Policy Blog

USDA Shuffles Around More Agencies and Offices

Chris Clayton
By  Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor
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USDA rolled out some further organizational changes on Thursday, which the department stated would "improve customer service and maximize efficiency." The department noted the changes build on the reorganization announced last May.

Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue posted a YouTube video for USDA employees. https://www.youtube.com/…

Among changes announced Thursday, USDA will move the Grain Inspection Packers, and Stockyards Administration into the Agricultural Marketing Service. USDA stated this is because GIPSA and AMS both do grading activities. The grain inspection activities will become a separate function area in AMS. The Packers and Stockyards Program will be part of a new structure that is part of the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act.

The National Grain and Feed Association, along with the North American Export Grain Association, commended Perdue for moving the Federal Grain Inspection Service into AMS.

"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," said NGFA President Randy Gordon and NAEGA President and Chief Executive Officer Gary Martin. "Relocating FGIS within an agency that has a similar mission and function as a service agency is the foundation for its successful future, and we commend Secretary Perdue for recognizing this need and moving expeditiously to bring about this change."

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AMS will also become the hub for commodity procurement as USDA is merging the International Food Commodity Procurement program, currently in the Farm Service Agency, into the domestic Commodity Food Procurement program in AMS. USDA stated that will create greater efficiencies in the purchase of commodities.

USDA also is realigning the Office of Pest Management Policy, moving it from the Agricultural Research Service to the Office of the Chief Economist. USDA stated the pest management office works on USDA's role in the pesticide regulatory process and other interagency affairs. "Its focus does not coincide with the mission of ARS and can be better situated in the Office of the Chief Economist."

USDA also will create a new Innovation Center in the Rural Development area. Perdue eliminated the under secretary for Rural Development in creating a new Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development, which has been one of the more controversial decisions in the realignment. USDA noted Rural Development has been spearheading some of the work on the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity. The Innovation Center will evaluate the impacts of the business, housing and utility programs at USDA. "Through such an evaluation, USDA will be better informed as to where additional investments will be most impactful when it comes to RD program delivery."

Back in May USDA renamed the mission area for the under secretary for Farm Production and Conservation, or FPAC. That is the under secretary position Iowa's Bill Northey has been nominated to head. The FPAC combines the Farm Service Agency, the Risk Management Agency and the Natural Resources Conservation Service into one area. The FPAC leadership is now doing a "customer engagement review" to see what is working and what can be improved to better support farmers in the future.

Several outreach offices are also being grouped together, including the Office of Advocacy and Outreach; the Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships staff; the Office of Tribal Relations; and the Military Veterans Liaison. USDA will create an Office of Partnerships and Public Engagement and each of those groups will have an office in that new group.

The Center for Nutritional Policy and Promotion is also merging into the Food and Nutrition Service. The nutritional policy center deals with dietary guidelines and scientific research. The FNS is the program that administers USDA's 15 different nutrition programs, including

Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

Also created back in May, the under secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs is also taking over the Codex Alimentarius program, known as the U.S. Codex Office. The office is currently part of the Food Safety and Inspection System, but will move into a new role in the trade office.

Chris Clayton can be reached at Chris.Clayton@dtn.com

Follow him on Twitter @ChrisClaytonDTN

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