Press Release

Welch Leads Vermont and New Hampshire Congressional Delegations in Urging USDA to Address Staffing Shortages in Rural Development Office as States Continue Flood Recovery Efforts

Apr 4, 2024

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Peter Welch (D-Vt.), Chair of the Senate Agriculture Subcommittee on Rural Development and Energy, led U.S. Senators Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.); Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), and U.S. Representatives Becca Balint (VT-AL), Ann Kuster (D-N.H.), and Chris Pappas (D-N.H.) in sending a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to provide the USDA Rural Development (RD) Vermont and New Hampshire Office with the resources necessary to overcome current staffing shortages.  

The USDA Rural Development Vermont and New Hampshire Office delivers vital services for rural communities in the region, including crucial aid to constituents recovering from natural disasters, such as last summer’s catastrophic rain and flooding. However, it currently has the lowest staffing rate of any regional RD office. Staffing shortages threaten Vermont and New Hampshire’s abilities to mitigate the impacts of recent and future disasters. 

“The Vermont and New Hampshire RD Office offers critical support to our states. This support is needed now more than ever, as our states recover from natural disasters, face economic pressures, and continue to adapt to a changing climate…Our RD employees know and understand our communities, providing essential technical assistance, loans, and grants to support our constituents as they tackle and overcome these challenges,” wrote the policymakers. 

The policymakers continued: “RD Office employees have done an excellent job serving Vermont and New Hampshire—but they have had to do so under severe resource constraints. Since 2022, our RD Office has operated between 50 and 70 percent capacity, and the Office is currently operating at 61 percent capacity. In other words, the Office would ideally employ 47 people but employs 29 at the present time. These resource constraints have led to higher workloads for existing staff, making it difficult to complete projects in a reasonable timeframe and leading to frustration from clients and communities.” 

“It is our understanding that USDA has transferred Full Time Equivalents (FTEs) from USDA headquarters to regional offices across the country in recent years, including the Vermont and New Hampshire RD Office. We are thankful for the nine FTEs the Office has received. However, despite the additional, the Office has not been able to bring on any additional employees. This is not for lack of trying, as the Office has gone through multiple rounds of hiring. But high cost of living, government salary levels and the remoteness of our states has made it challenging to onboard staff,” wrote the Members. “We urge you to take immediate additional action to support hiring in our regional office and bring employees on board. Our delegations would greatly appreciate added flexibilities or monetary incentives in the hiring process.” 

Read the full text of the letter. 

Read a digital version of this release here.