‘Working their tail off’: Vilsack defends USDA telework

By Marc Heller | 02/29/2024 06:37 AM EST

The Agriculture secretary said it’s “an affront” to employees to suggest that lingering telework undercuts his agency’s work.

Tom Vilsack.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Capitol Hill on Wednesday. Francis Chung/POLITICO

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack pushed back against a Republican suggestion Wednesday that telework is making the Agriculture Department less responsive to the public.

At a Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee hearing, Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) cited a letter she’d received anonymously from a USDA employee who likened its headquarters to a “ghost town” and said people working remotely aren’t available or don’t reply to calls for hours.

The letter writer said, “The vast majority of USDA employees are not working in person,” according to a poster the senator displayed at the hearing.


“We do receive calls at the office where our constituents are having trouble with USDA,” Ernst said, telling Vilsack she’ll forward on the complaints.