NFU opposes ERS, NIFA moves |

NFU opposes ERS, NIFA moves

The National Farmers Union announced Tuesday that it is opposed to the Trump administration’s plan to put the Economic Research Service under the USDA chief economist and to move ERS and the National Institute for Food and Agriculture out of the Washington metropolitan area.

“ERS and NIFA play a key role in helping farmers and ranchers improve productivity, natural resource stewardship, and access to global markets and trade,” NFU President Roger Johnson wrote in a letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, who announced the plans.

Johnson continued, “As the economic and environmental challenges facing family farmers and ranchers mount, it is critical that USDA prioritize the work of the agencies. The process to relocate these agencies has lacked meaningful public input that would better inform any final decision. Additionally, the USDA should be more forthcoming and transparent with the metrics it utilized in developing the current proposal.

“Given the available information, NFU has several concerns. The proposal does not adequately address how USDA will improve the agencies’ effectiveness in serving family farmers and ranchers. While USDA cites current difficulty with employee recruitment as a justification, we are concerned that the move will lead to a large loss of knowledgeable and experienced staff. Such a loss could cause disruptions in NIFA’s program delivery, and ERS’s reporting and research,” he continued. “Any disruption in the execution of these agencies’ functions would have a significant detrimental impact on family farmers and ranchers. We are also deeply concerned that the relocation and reorganization could jeopardize each agency’s objectivity.”

Johnson also wrote, “The chief economist’s role is to advise the secretary on the economic impact of USDA’s policies and programs, while ERS’s mission is to conduct ‘objective economic research’ for the benefit of the public. Placing ERS directly under the chief economist’s purview may diminish the scientific integrity of the agency’s research. Relocating NIFA at or near entities applying for grants may also create conflicts of interest in the grant awarding process.”

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