The White House is requesting additional funding to help the US. Department of Agriculture (USDA) address issues created by the coronavirus pandemic. Acting Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, Russ Vought said in a letter that the increased USDA funding is necessary to cover the rising costs of department administration caused by COVID-19 concerns.
“With the pandemic growing, resource needs have also grown,” said Vought. “The unprecedented mobilization the Administration has achieved has forced agencies to incur unanticipated costs. These costs must be met with a legislative response to ensure full operational capacity.”
The request is for $161 million in additional USDA funding to be dispersed throughout multiple programs and initiatives. The White House notes that USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service needs $55 million to counteract the loss of user fees the agency collects from airline traffic. An additional $45 million is being requested to account for salary costs associated with commodity grading and inspection activities performed by the Agricultural Marketing Service.
Other increases in USDA funding includes a request for another $33 million to fund temporary and intermittent workers and overtime costs for the Food Safety and Inspection Service. An extra $14 million is also being requested by the White House, to be dispersed between the Rural Business-Cooperative Service, Foreign Agricultural Service, and the Farm Service Agency. The request also includes an additional $14 million to be approved for the Forest Service, for the disinfecting and cleaning of the agency’s owned and leased spaces.
“The aim of this request is to maintain that capacity and ensure that resource needs created by the pandemic response are met,” Vought noted. “It is not intended as a broad-based solution to the major economic dislocation wrought by the virus, nor is it the primary means by which the Federal Government plans to address the hardships of families, individuals, and communities who have been touched by the disease.”