Opponents of Kansas City USDA launch appropriations effort
As Congress continues its efforts to pass fiscal year 2020 appropriations bills, opponents of the Trump administration’s decision to move most of the employees of the Economic Research Service and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture from Washington to the Kansas City area have launched another effort to stop the moves.
In a joint statement on Monday, the American Federation of Government Employees, American Statistical Association, National Farmers Union, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, and the Union of Concerned Scientists said in a joint statement that Agriculture Deputy Undersecretary for Research Education and Economics Scott Hutchins told the Senate Agriculture Committee last week that 75% of the ERS and NIFA had declined to make the move and that affected “dozens of critical reports including those on the opioid epidemic, veterans’ diets, and international trade markets.”
The groups said, “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 agriculture 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.”
The House version of the fiscal year 2020 Agriculture bill contains measures to discourage the move, while the Senate bill would provide USDA with funds to ease the moves.
Ferd Hoefner, a strategic adviser for the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, said in an email, “This move has never been authorized and never been appropriated. Appropriators have thankfully rejected the big budget cuts proposed by the administration, but they still have a decision to make on relocation. Going into conference, the House and Senate are 180 degrees apart. We will see where it winds up, but for the sake of the future of agricultural research and sound policy making, we want the eventual compromise to be as close to the House position as possible.”
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue has insisted that USDA has the authority to move employees. A congressional aide with knowledge of the situation said that the opponents’ efforts to reverse the moves are unlikely to succeed, but that it is important for both outside groups and lawmakers to continue the fight because the Trump administration may propose to move other USDA divisions outside Washington.