Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said the rules USDA has to follow hiring Farm Service Agency offices is making it hard to fill positions at local USDA service centers.
A reporter told Perdue Thursday at the Farmers Business Network meeting that farmers were saying it is hard to get into their local offices right now. Perdue said, "I would love for you to send me as many people as we could hire. Would you have thought the federal government would have trouble hiring people at FSA offices? A lot of that has to do with our rules of engagement today with 3.5% unemployment. People are not going to wait 120 days, or 160 days or 180 days to be approved for a job. That's just not the case, and with all of the steps we have to go through with the Office of Personnel and Management in hiring somebody, it's torturous and it's hurting us and hurting the federal government in that way."
Perdue said USDA has asked for direct hiring for ERS, NIFA and the Forest Service, but USDA may need FSA and NRCS offices from local communities to come and be hired in a reasonable time. "People today are not going to wait around 180 days to be employed and that's what's happening here. So we need people, we're looking for people, we're looking to hire people."
Farmers send specifically where they are overloaded. Two disaster programs, two MFP programs and implement a farm bill. "So frankly, I am proud of the people we've got. They have worked really hard and they need a hug and a pat on that back rather than complaining in that regard."
Perdue had been talking about signups being extended for the Market Facilitation Program and the Dairy Margin Coverage program. Enrollment for both programs will now be open through December 20.
Just over one quarter of licensed dairy operations, 7,204 farms, have enrolled in DMC for the 2020 calendar year as of Dec. 9. By comparison, 82% of licensed operations, 23,164 in all, signed up for the program for 2019. Perdue had said he was disappointed with the low enrollment.
"The signups have been really low and it's kind of disappointing to me," Perdue said. "Congress gave a great deal on the dairy safety net this last spring. We had great participation and they were already certain they could get more money back than they were putting in. Insurance is insurance and we don't take insurance on our house hoping it burns down. We want a protection, a safety net and hope our dairy farmers will look at that going forward even though milk prices are up and it's had its intended effect. But don't come complaining if you don't take it out this time and prices go back down."
Chris Clayton can be reached at Chris.Clayton@dtn.com
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