Press reports surfaced Wednesday of an email from a USDA field officer is reportedly showed support claims that the President is trying to make sequestration as painful as possible for political gain. Late Wednesday afternoon USDA contadcted HAT to dispute the alogations. Subsequently the agency released the following statement.
Several reports yesterday misrepresented a USDA effort to explain the impacts of budget cuts to an employee in USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). Here are the facts: Recently, a member of the APHIS field staff suggested to the agency’s budget officers that budget cuts in the APHIS Wildlife Services program could be spread out across 24 states in a particular region in order to avoid furloughs. The budget officers explained that the employee’s suggestion had already been communicated to Congress as part of the Administration’s FY2013 budget proposal and will be included as part of the sequestration plan. The communication with Congress referenced in the email was about the FY13 budget, not about the impacts of sequester. To be clear, the APHIS budget officer explained that USDA is already proposing these steps in order to avoid furloughs. USDA is committed to doing all we can to minimize the impact of sequester our employees and the farmers, ranchers, and rural communities we serve.
Statement from USDA spokesperson on conference spending in a letter from Senator Coburn:
USDA does not provide financial support for the Priester Health Extension Conference and we have asked the organizers to remove our logo from the website.
Farmers attending the California Small Farm Conference are paying for the wine tasting themselves – this is not a conference for USDA employees.
While employee conferences have decreased significantly in recent years, farmers, ranchers and other constituents benefit from many conferences and forums because they provided access to experts, new research and other practices to strengthen the rural economy.
Importantly, USDA has aggressively managed travel, conference and administrative costs to achieve $700 million in new efficiencies, savings, and cost avoidances during the last three fiscal years.