Senate follows House on ERS, NIFA | TheFencePost.com

Senate follows House on ERS, NIFA

-The Hagstrom Report

The Senate fiscal year 2019 Agriculture appropriations released by Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby, R-Ala., contains report language calling on the Agriculture Department to provide cost estimates on the Trump administration's plan to move most of the employees of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture out of the Washington metropolitan area and says it is "appropriate" for the Economic Research Service to remain within the Research, Education and Economics mission area rather than move to the Office of the Chief Economist.

The bill's explanatory statement says, "The bill is concerned about the unknown costs associated with the proposed move of the National Institutes of Food and Agriculture and the Economic Research Service to a new location outside of the National Capital Region. In submitting the fiscal year 2020 budget justification, the Department is directed to include all cost estimates for the proposed move of the two agencies, as well as a detailed analysis of any research benefits of their relocation. There is an expectation that this process will be followed in the future for any other potential proposed agency relocations by the Department. The bill supports an indefinite delay in the proposed transfer of ERS to the Office of the Chief Economist. At this time, the bill finds it appropriate for ERS to remain under the Research, Education and Economics mission area. The bill takes this position as several questions remain about the merits of the proposed transfer as well as the proposed relocation of ERS outside of the National Capital Region. Insufficient information and justification relating to the reorganization and relocation make moving forward on these proposals premature at this time."

The House bill released last week contains similar language.

Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., chairman of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee in the 115th Congress and 116th Congress, and Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Ala., chairman of the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee in the 115th Congress, had signaled support for the Trump administration's plans for moving ERS and for moving the ERS and NIFA employees out of Washington.

Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., ranking member on the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee in the 115th Congress and the 116th Congress, and Rep. Sanford Bishop, D-Ga., chairman of the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee in the 116th Congress, had indicated opposition.

But the release of the two bills signals that Republicans and Democrats in both chambers now oppose the moves – at least until Congress has been consulted.