Will vaccination mandate trigger mass resignations at FSA?
Per a September executive order, federal employees must be vaccinated by November 22. What does this mean for workers at the Farm Service Agency (FSA), which administers loans for the USDA? Farm Journal’s AgWeb speculates that FSA might see a wave of resignations from those who balk at vaccination. The USDA has denied a request from a group representing 6,700 FSA staff and workers, including county farm committee members (many of them farmers), to conduct regular testing in lieu of Covid vaccination. The USDA will still honor religious and health exemptions, said Secretary Tom Vilsack, but there’s no room to budge otherwise. He noted that his department has been significantly downsized, by as many as 4,000 people, since his first term during the Obama years. In 2012, FSA employees vocally complained that, with the then-proposed closure of more than 130 county offices, the agency was disproportionately affected in federal government shutdowns. So almost a decade later, many offices nationwide are already short-handed, with fewer hours and longer waits for meetings and loan processing. In an interview with Farm Journal, Vilsack said, “I don’t anticipate that we’re actually going to see a significant number of closed offices.” But what he means by “significant” is anybody’s guess.