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Published April 29, 2013, 09:38 AM

NASS makes changes

The National Agricultural Statistics Service is restructuring, placing more focus on regional offices. The changes won't affect the services or information the agency provides, officials say.

By: Jonathan Knutson, Agweek

Restructuring of the National Agricultural Statistics Service won’t affect the services or information that the agency provides, NASS officials say.

“We’ll still provide basically the same reports we have been, the same information we have been,” says Kevin Barnes, who works for NASS in Washington, D.C.

NASS, an arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, conducts hundreds of surveys every year and prepares reports that cover nearly every aspect of U.S. agriculture.

Under the restructuring, NASS will place more emphasis on 12 regional offices and less on individual state offices.

“We’re consolidating resources into the regional offices” to increase efficiency, Barnes says.

North Dakota, Minnesota, South Dakota and Montana will retain their state offices.

Each of the state offices will eliminate its director and deputy director positions and replace them with a state statistician and a survey coordinator who works with enumerators, or the people employed by NASS to collect information, Barnes says.

The state statistician will be the main NASS contact person in that state, just as the state director had been.

State leadership

Questions about how the reorganization would affect NASS operations in North Dakota, Minnesota, South Dakota and Montana were referred to Barnes, who would discuss the changes only in broad terms.

But officials at the four state offices tell Agweek the following:

n In North Dakota, Darin Jantzi, who had been state director, is now state statistician.

• In Minnesota, Daniel Lofthus, who had been state deputy director, is now state statistician. Douglas Hartwig, who had been state director, has taken a position with NASS in St. Louis.

• In South Dakota, Carter Anderson, who had been state director, is now state statistician.

• In Montana, Eric Summer, who had been state deputy director, is acting state statistician. A permanent state statistician is expected to be named shortly. Steve Anderson, who had been state director, has taken a position with NASS in Olympia, Wash.

The four state offices can still be reached at the same telephone numbers and email addresses.

North Dakota and South Dakota will be part of the National Agricultural Statistics Service’s regional office in Lincoln, Neb. Minnesota is a member of the Des Moines, Iowa-based region, while Montana is part of the Denver-based region.

Barnes described the restructuring as “pretty much permanent.” He wouldn’t discuss when the process will be finished.

This winter, NASS announced that it was suspending a number of statistical surveys and reports because of federal funding cuts caused by sequestration. NASS emphasized that the reports are suspended, not eliminated.

Change is difficult

Jantzi, the new North Dakota state statistician, says the restructuring will “improve data quality, get consistency and standardization across the country.

“I actually think it’s going to be better,” says Jantzi, who has spent five years with the North Dakota NASS office and 20 years altogether with the agency.

In the restructuring, some NASS employees will apply for new positions or be reassigned, while others will retire or leave the organization for jobs elsewhere, Jantzi says.

Change in any aspect of life, personal or professional, is difficult, he says.

“But I think most people (in NASS) understand the reason and the necessity for it. We as an agency feel we want to do our part to reduce the federal deficit,” he says.

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