Vilsack Testifies on FY ’23 Budget, Cites USDA Staffing Shortage

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack says his department’s lost thousands of staffers in recent years, and the latest USDA budget request tries to recoup some of those losses. USDA’s fiscal year 2023 budget request of close to 24 billion dollars is up more than 2 billion or 10-percent from this year, and part of that is to make up personnel losses.

“The Department of Agriculture has 53-hundred fewer people working at it than it did when I left office in January of 2017. This is despite the fact that the discretionary and mandatory budgets have increased. The discretionary budget’s been increased by 18 percent, and the programmatic spending has increased by several billion dollars.”

Vilsack says Congress’ failure, in some years, to fully-fund pay raises has forced staff cuts in critical areas. “We have critical shortages in rural development, in our food and nutrition and consumer service area, and in our NRCS area, conservation area.”

USDA’s asking for 535 new staffers for NRCS and 64 more for FSA. Vilsack says it should be enough.

“I’m confident that our request will allow us to continue to do the good work at FSA offices across the United States. NRCS is a different story. The reality is we have to have people working individually with producers, particularly with those who have been historically underserved.”

Vilsack is asking Congress for $50 million more to help those groups, $200 million more for the Reconnect broadband program, another $119 million for Ag and food research, and full funding of SNAP, WIC, and child nutrition.

In Ukraine, Vilsack says USDA’s using 670 million in existing funds for emergency food aid to six African nations in need because of the war.

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