Vilsack: I’ll Give Up Part Of My Salary If USDA Furloughs Employees

Tom Vilsack, USDA

The USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) Illinois State Executive Director Scherrie Giamanco announced that USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack told the Des Moines Register Tuesday he would give up part of his salary if the department were forced to furlough employees as part of government-wide across-the-board spending reductions known as sequestration.

“I’ve indicated that early in the process,” Vilsack said in an interview. “We’ll be doing what we have to do.” All cabinet secretaries make just under $200,000 a year.

The USDA is still assessing if it will need to furlough employees, or how many it will need to if it gets to that point. If Vilsack did choose to give up his paycheck, it wouldn’t be the first time. He said he once wrote a check back to Iowa when the state was reducing its budget and he was governor.

Vilsack said the USDA is in better shape than other cabinet departments because of cost-cutting, staff reductions and other efficiencies put in place during his time at the helm. During the last two years, the department has trimmed more than $700 million by modernizing and reducing waste. USDA also has seen its workforce cut by 8% since Vilsack became secretary in 2009.

Vilsack isn’t the only cabinet member who has pledged to give up a portion of his salary in solidarity with other federal workers because of sequestration.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Secretary of State John Kerry are among a handful of cabinet officials that have vowed to give some of their earnings back. President Barack Obama also has joined the fold by pledging to return to the Treasury 5% of his $400,000 salary.

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