USDA Shutters Hundreds of Outposts

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The agency that helps farmers and ranchers -- and basically just makes sure that the country's food production goes smoothly and that Americans are fed -- is shutting down hundreds of regional offices to save money, the Associated Press reports.

The closures will save the agency $150 million, the AP notes -- affecting at least 46 states and Washington.

Other cost-cutting measures for the agency -- which has a $145 billion budget -- announced by U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Monday include finding cheaper cell phone plans for USDA staffers.

A lot of the changes will greatly impact the agency's research arm: USDA scientists have typically done things like try to figure out how to make Alaskan wasteland arable, or how to best irrigate parched deserts. The Obama administration said earlier this year that it wants to shave at least $42 million from the USDA's ag research, the AP writes.

The USDA also organizes aid for the poor, such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps.


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