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In a move expected to save $150 million annually, USDA plans to shut down 259 U.S. facilities, offices, and laboratories, as well as seven foreign offices. The closures will affect USDA’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., as well as its facilities in 46 states and a U.S. territory. As part of the plan, the Food Safety & Inspection Service will lose five of its 15 district offices, and the Agricultural Research Service will lose 12 programs in 10 locations. Meanwhile, the Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service will lose 15 offices in 11 states and five foreign offices, and the Natural Resources Conservation Service will shut down 24 soil survey offices in 21 states. Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the closures on Jan. 9 during a speech at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual meeting. Food safety advocates raised concerns about the closures. USDA Undersecretary for Food Safety Elisabeth A. Hagen responded, “There will be no reduction in our inspection presence and no increased risk to consumers as a result.”
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