Hello USDA Family. As you know, the president has now submitted
his Fiscal Year 2018 budget proposal to Congress, and soon the appropriators on Capitol Hill
will put their stamp on it. Whatever form the final budget takes, it will
be my job as Secretary of Agriculture to manage and implement that plan, while still fulfilling
the core mission of USDA. There’s no sugar coating what we will face. USDA will likely see a significant reduction
in funding by the time this process is complete. This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone,
as the president promised before his election that he would realign government spending,
attempt to eliminate duplication or redundancy, and see that all government agencies are efficiently
delivering services to our customers – the taxpayers of America. And that’s exactly what we’re going to
do. Having been the governor of Georgia from 2003
to 2011 – not exactly during the best economic times – we did what it took to get the job
done, just like the people involved in every aspect of American agriculture do every day. I was born into a farming family in Bonaire,
Georgia, and trust me, I know the thrill of a bumper crop, as well as the heartbreak of
flood or drought. And today, we’ll do at USDA what my family
did then –we’re going to get the job done – even if we have to do more with less. We are going to take the funding that we do
get, and make it go just as far as we can. As secretary, I can tell Congress, the president,
and OMB where we need the resources, what we can do with them and how we can do better
in some other areas. But ultimately the Congress makes that decision
and my role is to take what they give us and to implement it in the most effective, the
most efficient, and the best managed department in the U.S. government. That’s my goal and together that’s what
we’ll do. In fact, I’m thinking of a common signatory
line for all USDA correspondence: “Growing Better Together.” USDA is full of dedicated career employees,
and we are excited to be working with you all. You have earned straight talk from me, so
I want to tell you that there is no denying that such budgetary restrictions could possibly
mean a reduction in staff. We will be looking at options to achieve those
savings through normal attrition, early retirements, or other least disruptive means. What I ask from all USDA staff now is to focus
on our mission. We can’t know what final form the budget
will take, but we do know that we will manage, and do the job that you’ve always done. And at every step along the way, we’re going
to make every effort to be as transparent with you as possible. This is the message, it’s just the beginning
of that. Mary and I used to have a saying with our
children – when you get in a bind don’t whine. USDA is going to be a team of winners not
whiners. Thank you for what you do for American agriculture
each and every day. And thank you for taking the time out of your
day to listen to this important message. God bless you.