Biden talks undersecretary nominees, return to headquarters
EAST POINT, Ga. — Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Monday said that the Biden administration has a potential nominee for Agriculture undersecretary for trade who is being vetted, but that a candidate for undersecretary for nutrition and consumer services had dropped out by the time the lengthy vetting process had been completed.
In response to questions from reporters after an event with the Federation of Southern Cooperatives here, Vilsack said he hopes that the undersecretary for trade will be announced soon. He added that, while the administration looks for a new candidate for undersecretary for nutrition and consumer services, Stacy Dean, the deputy undersecretary, is “terrific” in the position.
At an earlier news conference after his speech to the American Farm Bureau Federation in Atlanta, Vilsack acknowledged that announcement of appointees for state-level positions to head the Farm Service and Rural Development agencies have been slow, but that the vetting process is thorough.
Vilsack also acknowledged that staff at the USDA headquarters in Washington had started returning to the office in December after working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, even though no formal announcement was made. A USDA civil servant had told The Hagstrom Report that enough employees had returned in December that there were some “happy hour” gatherings at the end of the work day.
Vilsack said there were plans for formal reopening of USDA divisions to begin on January 3, but that the plan was canceled due to the emergence of the omicron variant of COVID-19. He said he expects there to be a meeting next week to come up with a plan to reopen the headquarters.
Vilsack also said that the percentage of USDA employees who have been vaccinated is now 88 to 89%, and that only 1 to 2% have not responded to the Biden administration’s mandate to inform the government of their vaccination status.
–The Hagstrom Report
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