This morning APHIS offices around the country opened for business for the first time in nearly 3 weeks. The end of the government shutdown is making headlines around the world so I know by now you're well aware of our operating status, but after 17 days of radio silence, I wanted you to hear from me directly rather than CNN or The Washington Post that APHIS employees have returned to work and are ready to assist our customers.
The last several weeks have been filled with uncertainty for federal employees as well as the many stakeholders we serve. Now that we're back, our first priority at APHIS is to reconnect with each other and our many customers whose business activities were put on hold while the government was closed. As much as we would like to, we can't make up for almost 3 weeks of missed work in just a day or two. We have to focus on what's most important for animal and plant health and animal welfare and make sure we address those things first. Another important priority is working with importers and exporters to process permit requests and health certificates for our customers whose livelihoods depend on this documentation. We simply ask for your patience as we work to address these critical needs as quickly as possible.
While about half of APHIS' approximately 8,000 employees were furloughed these past 17 days, the other half remained on the job because their work is funded by user fees or some prior year appropriations, or they perform certain functions deemed "excepted" under very narrow criteria established by law. This included, among other things, agriculture quarantine and inspection activities at ports of entry across the country to guard against the introduction of foreign plant and animal pests and diseases and protecting the flying public from the threat of bird strikes during takeoff and landing at more than 100 airports nationwide.
The way I see it, however, all APHIS employees are essential and so is our mission of protecting and promoting American agriculture. We may be able to stop operations for a short period of time without an immediate dramatic effect, but over an extended period of time the absence of our work would lead to the spread of pests and diseases and huge losses for American agriculture. Some of you who depend on APHIS to conduct your daily business operations have already felt the sting of this shutdown and I sincerely apologize for any difficulties you may have encountered.
Not only are we happy to be back on the job, but we're anxious to get things back to normal here at APHIS as quickly as possible. If there's anything we can do to help meet your needs during this brief transition, please let me know or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Calves1 009 – John Maday