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Perdue Announces New Steps in USDA Reorganization
Building on a controversial USDA reorganization rolled out in May, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced further steps to realign “a number of offices within the U.S. Department of Agriculture in order to improve customer service and maximize efficiency.”
Among several steps, the Grain Inspection, Packers, and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) will be merged into the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS). Currently, both GIPSA and AMS carry out grading activities and work to ensure fair trade practices, the USDA said. Grain inspection activities will become a separate area within AMS; the Packers and Stockyards Program will be merged into 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, applauded moving the grain inspection service into AMS. “We strongly support this much-needed realignment … 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 CEO Gary Martin.
In May, Perdue came under fire in Congress for abolishing the office of undersecretary for rural affairs and making that post an assistant to the secretary. At the time, the National Rural Housing Coalition released a mass letter, signed by hundreds of groups, asking lawmakers to preserve the undersecretary slot and to block the administration from slashing $1 billion in funding for rural water, housing, and business development.
Without acknowledging any proposed budget cuts, Perdue’s statement said the new rural office has been “leading efforts to promote economic development and revitalization, job growth, infrastructure, innovation, and quality of life issues for rural America.” Among other things, it pointed out that four rural task forces were gathering “recommendations on issues regarding the quality of life in rural America; the rural workforce; innovation, technology, and data; and economic development. These working groups have met at least 10 times.” Perdue also set up an “Innovation Office” within the rural development function to “develop fresh, creative solutions to reinvigorate rural America.” He will issue a series of recommendations to President Trump in late October.
The USDA is also moving the Office of Pest Management Policy (OPMP) from the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) to the Office of the Chief Economist. The OPMP coordinates the USDA’s role in the pesticide regulatory process and related interagency affairs.