Report: USDA didn’t follow guidelines in staffing decisions

By Agri-Pulse staff

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, May 14, 2014 - A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report says USDA's service agencies did not follow government guidelines in making staffing decisions.

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The agencies - including the Farm Service Agency (FSA), the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Rural Development (RD) - were forced by budget constraints in 2010 through 2012 to cut a number of government workers, but GAO says the offices did not always use consistent or appropriate methodologies to determine where to make the cuts.

In fiscal year 2012, for example, the USDA policy on supervisory ratios in service agencies did not align with those recommended by the Office of Public Management, which said government offices should use a specific analytical approach to determine the “right balance” of supervisory and nonsupervisory positions within the department. “Instead, USDA stated that all its agencies, regardless of their missions, should aim for a target ratio of one supervisor to at least nine employees,” the GAO wrote.

The GAO also found that neither FSA nor RD had coherent plans to document their staffing strategies. Additionally, FSA and RD provided only limited cost benefit analyses of their organizational systems.

USDA faced $3 billion in budget cuts between fiscal years 2010 and 2012, according to the department. Workforce decreases in FSA, NRCS and RD offices between 2011 and 2012 were at least double the average rate for the period between 2003 and 2012: 9.2 percent compared to 4.5 percent at FSA;  3.8 percent compared to 1.4 percent at NRCS; and 14 percent compared to 3.3 percent at RD.

In 2012, USDA closed a number of service agency offices, including 125 FSA offices in 32 states. The department is currently trying to determine which of its 2,100 offices to close this year. Officials have previously said they would close about 250 offices in yet-to-determined locations.

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