This week’s cutbacks in the scope of the United States Department of Agriculture, announced by USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, is a refreshing step in the right direction. The action is much needed as the United States comes to grips with the dire necessity of getting our fiscal house in order.

Hopefully, other government agencies, (the Environmental Protection Agency leaps to mind,) will follow suit and announce cutbacks of their own. It is a sorely needed trend in a government that has become bloated at taxpayer expense.

In his recent address at the American Farm Bureau Federation annual meeting, Vilsack did not bemoan the $3 billion cut in USDA’s budget, which has resulted in the planned closure of 249 offices. Instead, he has adopted a ‘Blueprint for Stronger Service’ and resolves to continue to provide strong results to U.S. farmers.

The plan is to cut, close and consolidate without reducing the level of service to U.S. farmers. A reduced operating budget will not result in reduced service, Vilsack says.

His actions need to be embraced and duplicated by all sectors of government if we are to get the nation’s deficit under control and back away from the precipice of economic crisis. After all, USDA’s actions are what Americans are doing every single day as a way to get through difficult financial times.

For Vilsack to achieve his objective, however, it will require many difficult decisions as well as a new way of doing business. Hopefully, that new way of doing business encompasses a corresponding cutback in unnecessary programs and over-reaching regulation. 

Bloated federal staffs too often feel that they must issue new anti-business regulations in order to justify their expansive size. Instead of adding staff and increasing taxpayer funded programs, all federal agencies should adopt the USDA initiative and search for ways to save taxpayers money and cut burdensome regulation that is choking American agriculture. “We are all one regulation away from being out of business,” says Reed Rubinstein, senior counsel for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Vilsack’s optimistic attitude and results-oriented actions will be key to obtaining his objective as well as instructional to the countless over-budget U.S. agencies that have swelled the nation’s debt to more than $15 trillion.

As Vilsack gains experience paring down USDA by weeding out duplication, eliminating unnecessary programs and cutting waste, I hope he will share his experience with other overweight federal agencies that also could undergo some serious reduction of their own. 

There is no doubt that preserving critical USDA functions and services will be a top priority. Vilsack’s new way of doing business must encourage young people to enter agriculture, maintain revenue protection in the form of a robust crop insurance program and maintain the research that has placed the United States at the pinnacle of success in world agriculture.

Washington, D.C. should adopt the mantra “cut, close, consolidate” and keep repeating it until the country is living within its means. If anyone cannot figure out how the method works, they should ask Vilsack. Once again, American agriculture will show how to get it done.