Woteki, Buchanan, Offut to participate in webinar on moving NIFA, ERS Thursday
Two former agriculture undersecretaries for research, eduation and economics — Catherine Woteki and Gale Buchanan — and former Economic Research Service Administrator Susan Offut will participate in a public webinar Thursday on the Trump administration’s plans to move ERS and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture out of the Washington metropolitan area.
The webinar is sponsored by the American Statistical Association, which has questioned the administration’s statistics on personnel retention in justifying the move, as well as the Association of Public and Land Grant Colleges, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and other groups.
The discussion will be moderated by Scott Swinton, a professor at Michigan State University and past president of the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
The webinar will begin at 11 a.m. and a link to register for it is https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/1823877978110100481. A recording of the webinar will be posted after the event.
In the news release announcing the event, the sponsors said that the administration’s announcement about the moves “has raised the following questions of process:”
▪ “Was the partner and stakeholder community consulted prior to the announcement, and if so, how and when?
▪ “Will there be a chance for the USDA partner community to comment on the announcement and the effects of its realization?
▪ “What is Congress’s oversight and appropriation role in this reorganization?
▪ “Many substantive concerns have also been raised, including the following:
▪ “What policy and research problems are being addressed by the relocations and ERS’ transfer to a USDA policy arm?
▪ “How will the research quality and relevance of NIFA and ERS be improved by moving their headquarters away from key audiences and policymakers?
▪ “How would NIFA’s role in federal research partnerships be affected with a move away from sister federal agencies (National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, and Department of Energy)?
▪ “How would NIFA’s day-to-day operations be affected with leadership in DC and the rest of the agency in another location?
▪ “If most of NIFA is relocated to a partner university, what protections would be necessary to avoid preferential treatment of that university over the dozens of other universities that host NIFA-funded research?
▪ “Will ERS retain its capacity to be a leading world agricultural economics research institution if many staff elect not to relocate?
▪ “After reorganization, will the ERS have the resources to continue to serve as an independent, trustworthy source of statistical information?
▪ “What do these changes mean for the future of the USDA mission area of Research, Education, and Economics?”
The sponsors said the panelists will address “the many questions and concerns” raised about Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue’s announcement, and will also address viewer questions and “suggest actions for congress, USDA, and viewers.”