USDA Offers Hope of Reorganizations without Job Cuts

In a signal that reorganizing a federal agency doesn’t necessarily mean job cutting, the Agriculture Department has outlined a plan for restructuring several functions that anticipates that their staffing levels will remain about the same.

The Trump administration’s directive for federal agencies to reorganize has triggered widespread expectations of significant employment cuts as functions are combined or eliminated–or, as unions fear, turned over to the private sector. Preliminary plans are due to OMB June 30, and final plans to follow likely will include some ideas that could be carried out administratively and others that would require changes in law.

The recently issued USDA plan arises from a 2014 law requiring that it reorganize its international trade functions for imports and exports, gathering them into a new undersecretary’s office. The plan also would reorganize several other components, including those dealing with rural development, and combine farm conservation programs with farm safety net programs. It shows that the net effect would be to leave employment in those areas virtually unchanged at just above 60,000.

While the law ordering the changes predated the Trump order, USDA said its plans are a “down payment” under that order, while not guaranteeing against job reductions related to that order. Also, as with other agencies, funding decisions in the budget for the upcoming fiscal year could affect future employment levels at the department.