Lawmakers and Reporters Question Meaning of Leaked USDA Email

An email from a USDA field officer is said to support claims that the President is trying to make sequestration as painful as possible for political gain. In response to a question on the amount of latitude the field director had in making cuts - USDA's budget office suggested that in making reductions for aquaculture - he needed to make sure he didn't contradict what the administration said the impact would be. The email noted the administration had told Congress APHIS would eliminate assistance to producers in 24 states in managing wildlife damage to the aquaculture industry without additional funds. Arkansas Representative Tim Griffin says this response shows the administration's bid to undermine efforts to replace sequestration cuts with less onerous ones. South Dakota Representative Kristi Noem asked U.S. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack about the email during a House Agriculture Committee hearing Wednesday. Vilsack said where there is flexibility - the department will try to use it to make sure sequester is done in the most equitable and least disruptive way. According to a USDA statement - the field officer suggested an option to avoid furloughs that had already been presented to Congress as part of the Administration's fiscal year 2013 budget proposal and will be included as part of the sequestration plan.

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