In this era of shrinking budgets, Federal Agencies are facing hard choices about the delivery of important services, and the Unites States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS) is no exception. On February 27, 2012, APHIS hosted a public meeting for stakeholders to talk about the Agency's goals for this budget year and next and the status of the APHIS modernization project, specifically their reorganization.
The National Aquaculture Association (NAA) has alerted members that it has become aware of a number of proposals under consideration that would have an adverse impact on the US aquaculture industry. A proposal of immediate concern is to combine Veterinary Services, Wildlife Services, and Animal Care into a single unit, and to transfer some of Wildlife Service’s activities back to the Department of Interior. NAA is also concerned about the possible combining of APHIS state offices in each state, which might prevent offices from being located where each program has the predominate volume of their work. Also of concern is the President’s recently released FY13 Budget to Congress, which included the APHIS request to eliminate aquaculture funding.
While some decisions have already been made with respect to programs, it is more important than ever for APHIS to understand its stakeholders' concerns and priorities before moving ahead on the current proposals.
The NAA encourages its members to submit comments, specifically addressing the following information requested by APHIS, along with stating opposition to proposed budget cuts for Wildlife Services and specifically the elimination of Wildlife Services’ line item funding for aquaculture. At the very least, write USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack stating opposition to the elimination of Wildlife Services and aquaculture budget cuts.
1. As APHIS takes stock of its current programs and services and consider where, if necessary, there should be strategic cuts or across-the-board reductions, they are interested in hearing from stakeholders about those APHIS activities you most value and where and how you think the Agency might make responsible changes.
In your opinion, what are the three to five most essential services APHIS provides and why? Please share any feedback regarding how you feel APHIS can best structure or provide these services.
When you seek APHIS' assistance, do you primarily rely on our local field offices, State offices, regional offices, research centers and field stations, or headquarters for support? Why?
As APHIS continues to look at ways to improve their processes and enhance customer service, what recommendations do you have for specific efforts they could undertake in 2012?
2. Given limited resources, APHIS is seeking new ways to enhance existing partnerships and build new ones. How might APHIS strengthen current partnerships or collaborate in new ways to accomplish critical mission activities?
Do you see opportunities for APHIS, State governments, tribes, industry and academia to redefine traditional roles to find efficiencies or improvements in the way USDA collectively safeguards American agriculture? As best you can, please be specific or provide examples.
3. Please provide any additional comments or feedback you would like to share with APHIS' leadership, especially as it relates to how you like to see APHIS management communicate with you at the local, regional, and national level. Please be specific.
The deadline for submitting comments is March 23, 2012.
Letters should be addressed to Secretary Vilsack as follows, but sent to his email address.
The Honorable Tom Vilsack
Secretary of Agriculture
U.S. Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20230