FSA and NRCS offices are understaffed as the U.S. emerges from the pandemic, but Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack insists the needed work is getting done. Vilsack said USDA is trying to get staff back in the office, but returning to pre-pandemic levels will take time. He noted, FSA offices are currently at 75% capacity, while NRCS slightly less than that. He said while the Department is working on a return-to-work plan, he noted there are challenges for those returning.

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“If they haven’t been vaccinated, they have to maintain social distancing and they have to be masked, under our policy. Some of the challenges, obviously, if you have to social distance, that creates an issue with reference to the size of the office, itself.”

Vilsack insists, the work is getting done.

“And how do I know that?  Because we’ve surveyed this. We’ve actually tracked the ARC and PLC activities, and so forth, to be able to determine whether we are on track, relative to pre-pandemic work, when offices were fully staffed.  And we are exactly, today, where we were a year ago, two-years ago, three-years ago, at this time, in terms of the work being done.”

Still, Vilsack said USDA must be respectful of those who are hesitant about returning to work, those who may need to make childcare and other adjustments, those who want to return, and producers.

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