The government furlough in January and February has kept USDA Farm Service Agency employees playing catch-up for much of 2019.
“We are getting there.” That’s Indiana FSA Director Steve Brown’s response concerning where they are in the catch-up process.
While Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue was in town last week at Purdue University, Brown and his employees told him that staffing is a major hurdle they’re facing right now. Specifically, the amount of time it takes to get a job posted after it has been approved.
“We had a lot of retirements at the end of the year. Then with the furlough and what took place there, being down 35 days roughly, it just has all been backlogged. We went to a new hiring system and it’s like anything else, there are growing pains, but we’ve actually fared very well in Indiana. We have replaced some positions, we just have several more we need to.”
As for getting caught up, Brown says there are still a few stragglers out there that need to get paperwork in for their Market Facilitation Program (MFP) payments, but they’re in pretty good shape.
“We’ve issued a lot of payments to producers in Indiana. It’s been a big help and our producers have been so appreciative of our employees. I know when we came back from the furlough, the gestures and kind words they said to our employees, it was deeply appreciated.”
Brown says it’s time now to start implementing the new farm bill.
“We’re going to start out with dairy, then we’ll have crop certification coming, and then first of September, roughly, that’s when they’re anticipating ARC/PLC signup.”
Brown commended all FSA employees for the work they’ve done this year. He told Hoosier Ag Today that he believes the staffing situation should get worked out in time for the heavily trafficked ARC/PLC signup.