April 16, 2024

Manchin Questions USDA Secretary On Oversupply Issues In Apple Industry, USDA Staffing Levels

Washington, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, questioned U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack on finding long-term solutions to oversupply challenges in the apple industry and ensuring adequate staffing at USDA.

On finding long-term solutions to oversupply challenges in the apple industry:

“I had the privilege of working with your team to come to the aid of apple growers throughout the Mountain State. We had a heck of a problem and together we facilitated the successful harvest of our apple crop after an unprecedented oversupply,” Senator Manchin said in part. “Our teams worked hand in hand to establish an emergency apple buyback program and apples were donated to charitable organizations and food banks not only in West Virginia, but nationwide. So, I want to express my gratitude for you and your staff for taking the initiative. However, oversupply challenges in the apple industry are affecting growers nationwide – can you share the USDA strategy for achieving a sustainable, long-term solution to this issue?”

On ensuring adequate staffing at USDA:

“The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in an unprecedented nationwide shutdown, prolonged office closures and significant disruptions in the labor market, leading to millions of job vacancies across the nation. In your written testimony, you highlighted staffing challenges at USDA, particularly within USDA Office of Rural Development. You noted a concerning trend where the portfolio has expanded by 85% and yet staffing levels have declined by 30%. As a Senator representing a predominantly rural state, that's troubling for us. How are you meeting this challenge? And what can we do to help?” Senator Manchin questioned.

A video of Senator Manchin’s questioning is available here.