Leadership in both the House and Senate and White House officials met Tuesday to try to reinvigorate stalled appropriation negotiations. Next Thursday, the Senate is expected to “make a procedural move” on four of the 12 annual spending bills: Agriculture (S 2522), Transportation-HUD (S 2520), Interior-Environment (S 2580), and Commerce-Justice-Science (S 2584).
Both the Senate and House appropriations bills contain identical report language on addressing staff vacancies at the Department of Agriculture, language that RCRC has worked to support and advance. Language below:
Staff Vacancies.—The Committee is concerned with the number of staff vacancies within USDA. The Committee continues to provide funding increases for many agencies at USDA, yet staffing levels continue to decline. This creates delays in the processing of applications and the release of important funding throughout the Department. The Committee expects the Secretary to staff agencies at the appropriated levels, not the budget request level. The Committee also expects a report, no later than 180 days after enactment, that details staffing levels for all research agencies; the Farm Service Agency; all marketing agencies; Rural Development; Food and Nutrition Service; and the Foreign Agricultural Service. The report shall include vacancies that have remained unfilled for more than six months, plans to fill those vacancies, and the percentage and number of vacancy announcements that were posted for current internal employees only and for less than two weeks. The report shall also include for each agency the number of fulltime equivalent [FTE] staff utilized and the number of vacancies not filled for fiscal years 2015 through 2019.