Reorganization of USDA affects trade, rural development

2017-05-18T17:00:00Z Reorganization of USDA affects trade, rural development Illinois Farmer Today
May 18, 2017 5:00 pm

CINCINNATI, Ohio — U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced May 11 the creation of an undersecretary for trade and foreign agricultural affairs in the USDA.

Perdue made the announcement standing by barges filled with agricultural products along the banks of the Ohio River.

As part of a reorganization of USDA, Perdue also announced a newly named Farm Production and Conservation mission area. He issued a report to announce the changes, which address Congressional direction in the 2014 Farm Bill to create the new undersecretary for trade.

“This nation has a great story to tell and we’ve got producers here that produce more than we can consume,” Perdue said in a USDA news release.

“And that’s good, because I’m a grow-it-and-sell-it kind of guy. Our people in American agriculture have shown they can grow it, and we’re here to sell it in markets all around the world.”

Undersecretary changes

Under the existing structure, the Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS), which deals with overseas markets, and the Farm Service Agency (FSA), which handles domestic issues, were housed under one mission area, along with the Risk Management Agency (RMA). FAS will be situated under the new undersecretary for trade, where staff can sharpen their focus on foreign markets.

Additionally, an undersecretary will be selected for a newly named Farm Production and Conservation mission area — to include FSA, RMA, and the Natural Resources Conservation Service — which is to focus on domestic agricultural issues.

National Cattlemen’s Beef Association President Craig Uden responded to the changes, saying, “We believe the restructuring of USDA makes sense for cattlemen and women, providing a one-stop shop for producers who utilize the many services of the Farm Service Agency, the Risk Management Agency, and the Natural Resource Conservation Service.”

Wesley Spurlock, president of the National Corn Growers Association, said in a news release,

“The National Corn Growers Association has long advocated for a dedicated position at USDA focused on increasing U.S. agricultural exports, and we pushed for this provision in the 2014 farm bill. We are pleased to see that post finally become a reality today.”

Rural Development reorganization

The USDA reorganization will also alter the Rural Development agencies.

“The economic health of small towns across America is crucial to the future of the agriculture economy. It is my commitment to always argue for the needs of rural America, which is why we are elevating Rural Development within USDA,” Perdue said.

The Center for Rural Affairs released a statement opposed to the change in the Rural Development Mission position within the department. Policy Associate Anna Johnson said rural America stands to suffer if the position of Undersecretary for Rural Development is eliminated as proposed.

“We are heartened that Sec. Perdue is making strong efforts during his early days in office to express support for rural communities. However, we are concerned about the path he has chosen,” Johnson said in a news release.

“… If he makes this change, Sec. Perdue will be removing the position of the most significant rural advocate within USDA.”

And the American Soybean Association offered a cautious response, while expressing strong support for the establishment of an Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs.

“We will review the new structure with a careful eye, looking to make sure that the new USDA increases efficiency, while keeping its commitment to expanding markets both at home and abroad for farmers; investing in rural infrastructure and development; meeting conservation goals; and helping U.S. farmers maintain their role as providers of food for the world’s hungry,” the group said in a news release.

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