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Congressman Tom O´Halleran

Representing the 1st District of Arizona

O’Halleran Leads Letter Calling on Secretary Perdue to End Practice of Hiring Unqualified Political Operatives at USDA

September 27, 2017
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC - Today, Rep. Tom O’Halleran (AZ-01) sent a letter, signed by Reps. Raúl Grijalva (AZ-03), Ruben Gallego (AZ-07), Marcy Kaptur (OH-09), Salud Carbajal (CA-24), James McGovern (MA-02), William Keating (MA-09), and Betty McCollum (MN-4), demanding Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue explain the recent hiring of political operatives who lack experience within and knowledge of the departments they are assigned to oversee.

“Across rural America, millions of hardworking men and women rely on the expertise and support provided by the Department of Agriculture. That makes the practice of hiring political operatives within the USDA, or any government office, all the more troubling,” said Rep. O’Halleran. “Our policy and decision makers should be appointed based on their skills and experience, and that is clearly not happening in many cases. Secretary Perdue owes the American people answers.”

Earlier this month, reports found that a significant number of U.S. Department of Agriculture appointees were hired based on their previous support of President Donald Trump’s campaign. The Office of Personnel Management sets guidelines for the hiring of federal employees, and, according to reports, many appointees failed to meet the basic requirements. It is common practice for presidents of both parties to reward loyal campaign operatives, but under the current administration, the number of campaign hires has increased, despite many lacking a background in agriculture. In their letter, the group of lawmakers specifically highlighted the appointments to the USDA’s Foreign Agriculture Service, Agriculture Marketing Service, and the Natural Resource Conservation Service.

“As Secretary, you are aware of the critical economic needs of rural America. You are tasked with managing the Department in a way that leads to positive outcomes for the American people, which requires having the best possible staff,” the legislators wrote in their letter to Secretary Perdue. “We request that you respond promptly with a detailed explanation outlining how your current appointees are qualified. If you are unable to provide this information, we request that you provide a plan to replace unqualified staff with competent and experienced professionals capable of serving the mission of the USDA.

Read the full letter here.