Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) recently asked USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack about spending on conferences that feature wine tasting events. Coburn was concerned that these were indicative of unnecessary spending in light of agencies facing budget cuts from sequestration.
USDA issued the following response to Coburn’s letter today:
USDA does not provide financial support for the Priester Health Extension Conference and we have asked the organizers to remove our logo from the website.
Farmers attending the California Small Farm Conference are paying for the wine tasting themselves – this is not a conference for USDA employees.
While employee conferences have decreased significantly in recent years, farmers, ranchers and other constituents benefit from many conferences and forums because they provided access to experts, new research and other practices to strengthen the rural economy.
Importantly, USDA has aggressively managed travel, conference and administrative costs to achieve $700 million in new efficiencies, savings, and cost avoidances during the last three fiscal years.