Florida Congressman Challenges USDA on Performance

Florida Congressman Challenges USDA on Performance

Haylie Shipp
Haylie Shipp
Staffing and technology. Two big concerns for producers and ag lawmakers when we look at USDA offices.

With your Southeast Regional Ag News, I’m Haylie Shipp. This is the Ag Information Network.

At a recent budget hearing, Florida Congressman Scott Franklin pushed Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack on USDA service, saying it’s not what it should be post-pandemic…

“I don’t know if we’ve got folks still teleworking, or what the situation is, but we often have phones that go unanswered, because the people who they used to call aren’t there answering the phones anymore.”

Secretary Vilsack defended USDA’s performance, but admitted staffing is a problem…

“There were 6,500 fewer people working for the department when I came back. So, we are in the process of trying to rebuild the workforce, number one. Number two, we track the work that’s being done, there hasn’t been a drop-off, in terms of the service to folks. In fact, I think our people at the FSA offices have done a remarkable job getting all of the disaster relief assistance out, getting the loans out, getting the CRP efforts out—they’ve really stepped up.”

The USDA is asking for 4,700 new employees in fiscal ’24, but Vilsack says technology is still going to be an issue…

“When I got this job first, I asked to send an email to all our employees, I was told I couldn’t do that, I had to send 17 emails, because we had 17 systems. Mr. Chairman, we’re still working on this.”

Vilsack says USDA headquarters working to develop a cloud system to improve is efficiency with funds requested in the 2024 budget.

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