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Scientific and Agricultural Organizations Support Reversal of Relocation of ERS and NIFA

11/01/2019

A statement issued by five prominent associations representing farmers’ organizations and agricultural economists, deprecates the decision to move the Economic Research Service (ERS) and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) from Washington, D.C. to Kansas City. The joint statement reads: The harm done to American farmers, rural America and the agricultural economy at the hands of USDA is deeply troubling, but not irreversible. Many House and Senate appropriators have for months stood in strong, unified and outright opposition to the relocation. We stand firmly with that position in support of farmers, consumers and science-based agricultural research made possible by the hard-working employees at ERS and NIFA. All individuals and organizations who rely on agricultural research and economics – and support good government – should join us.

At a hearing on October 21st, Deputy Undersecretary Scott Hutchins was allegedly defensive regarding the consequences of the relocation of both ERS and NIFA. It is understood that 75 percent of staff have left the two agencies. The result will be delays in submission of reports and an interruption in awarding research grants to universities.

EGG-NEWS has consistently questioned the justification for the relocation that was obviously expected to be disruptive and prejudicial to the work of both agencies since key personnel were patently disinclined to move from Washington, D.C. Stating that the intent was to encourage economists and scientists at these agencies to be closer to their constituencies is fallacious. In effect the relocation deprived ERS and NIFA personnel of contact with colleagues at other government agencies, academic institutions and think-tanks in the Washington, D.C. area.

Observers have speculated that the relocation was intended to encourage the departure of economists and researchers engaged in studies considered politically sensitive and unacceptable to the Administration.

The decision to relocate is not irreversible and both logic and experience suggest that the exercise should be reversed. Under a subsequent Administration, it is certain that personnel will be transferred back from Kansas City to Washington, D.C. involving further disruption, expense and stress. No agency can afford to lose 75 percent of its personnel including the most experienced thinkers and achievers without diminishing service in the short term. The relocation will create profound deficiencies in future planning and decisions on a national level.