NSAC: Latest House approps bill would delay USDA moves
The report attached to the fiscal year 2019 appropriations bill on which the House started a vote on Thursday contains language directing the Agriculture Department to “delay indefinitely” the proposal to reorganize the USDA Economic Research Service under the Office of the Chief Economist and to provide a “detailed analysis” and cost estimates of the proposed move of both ERS and National Institute of Food and Agriculture employees out of the Washington metropolitan area, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition said today.
The report included language that had not been included in the 2018 Senate-passed fiscal year 2019 agriculture appropriations bill, nor in the agriculture appropriations bills put forward earlier this year by the House, NSAC noted.
Republicans demanded a roll call vote on the appropriations package the Democrats offered Friday, and it is expected to be held on Tuesday.
“We are heartened that the House has chosen to address the issue of relocating and reorganizing USDA’s premier research and statistics agencies head-on,” said Nichelle Harriott, NSAC policy specialist.
“This latest report language asks all the right questions when it comes to the uninformed and unjustified decision to relocate ERS and NIFA. Given that this language comes directly from last year’s bicameral efforts to pass a FY 2019 agriculture appropriations bill, we hope the Senate will consider the bill and finally allow the appropriations process to move forward.”
“Many leaders within the research, scientific, and agriculture communities have raised repeated concerns about this reorganization and relocation, including NSAC,” said Harriot.
“We applaud policymakers in the House for acknowledging those very justified concerns, and for addressing this issue as one of their first actions of the year. We are hopeful that the 116th Congress can provide the necessary oversight to prevent the administration from advancing a unilateral and hastily made decision. As the negotiations to reopen the federal government move forward, we urge both House and Senate leaders to stand together against this decision to relocate and reorganize ERS and NIFA until the serious concerns raised by stakeholders across the country can be fully addressed.”
Cabinet officials do not regard report language as having the same strength as bill language, but ignoring it raises the possibility of angering congressional appropriators.
At present, the measure is part of the Democrats’ effort to reopen the government. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has said he will not bring up any appropriations bill that President Donald Trump does not support.