On January 9, 2012, USDA unveiled a Blueprint for Stronger Service that includes closing 43 Rural Development (RD) field offices in 17 states. A total of 259 USDA agency offices, facilities, and labs will be closed nationwide.
A USDA fact sheet summarizes the Blueprint's impacts on RD, and lists the 43 counties that will lose RD offices:
- Alabama: Houston County
- Arizona: Mohave County
- Arkansas: Izard, Faulkner, Hot Spring, White, and Sevier Counties
- Delaware: Kent and Sussex Counties
- Hawaii: 1)(Kosrae, Chuuk, and Yap), and 2) Hawaii County
- Indiana: Monroe, Tippecanoe, LaPorte, and Marshall Counties
- Louisiana: Livingston County
- Maryland: Calvert, Garrett, and Worcester Counties
- Mississippi: DeSoto County
- Missouri: Jasper, Jefferson, Cape Girardeau, and Cole Counties
- North Carolina: Burke, Chowan, and Caswell Counties
- Oklahoma: Pushmataha and Pittsburg Counties
- Pennsylvania: Juniata County
- South Carolina: Richland and Sumter Counties
- Tennessee: Anderson, Bedford, Bledsoe, Cannon, Carter, Cocke, Humphreys, Sevier, and Trousdale Counties
- Virginia: Essex County
- Wyoming: Park County
"In some cases, offices are no longer staffed or have a very small staff of one or two people," USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack explains in a blog post. "Many are within 20 miles of other USDA offices. In other cases, technology improvements, advanced service centers, and broadband service have reduced some need for brick and mortar facilities."
In 1980, the Farmers Home Administration (FmHA) had "46 state offices, 264 district offices, and 1,904 county offices plus the National office in Washington, D.C."1 By March 1998, after FmHA staff had been combined with business and utilities staff in a major reorganization, Rural Development had only 815 county offices.2 USDA's Blueprint states that after the additional 43 offices are closed, "more than 450 RD offices remain." It is not clear whether these 450 include state offices.
Secretary Vilsack's blog post asserts that the Blueprint's "end result is a plan that will create optimal use of USDA’s employees, better results for USDA customers, and greater efficiencies for American taxpayers."
1. A Brief History of Farmers Home Administration. USDA, Farmers Home Administration. Washington: Government Printing Office, January 1990.
Posted: January 10, 2012