USDA Email: Don't Contradict Us on Sequester's Impact

The USDA contains a department called the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service whose role is to protect the nation’s agriculture from pests and disease. Like everyone else, their budget is being cut by the sequester.

Yesterday a regional manager named Charles Brown asked his superiors during a conference call how much flexibility he had in deciding how cuts are spread across the region. According to an email which made its way to Rep. Tim Griffin, the response was as follows:

We have gone on record with a notification to Congress and whoever else that “APHIS would eliminate assistance to producers in 24 States in managing wildlife damage to the aquaculture industry, unless they provide funding to cover the costs.” So, it is our opinion that however you manage that reduction, you
need to make sure you are not contradicting what we said the impact would be.

It’s hard to see what the innocent interpretation of this could be. Rep. Kristi Noem apparently felt the same way. When Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack appeared before Congress today she questioned him about the email:

There’s no reason to suppose Sec. Vilsack would have been made aware of this email before being asked about it by Rep. Noem. That said, Vilsack really didn’t offer much in the way off an explanation. Yes, there are times when painful cuts are unavoidable, but aren’t there also times when their impact can be reduced?

Why does it sound as if the USDA budgetary office is making don’t contradict us on the impact a priority? Wouldn’t it be better if, through careful management, the people on the ground could contradict them?

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