Legislation Would Halt Ill-Conceived Trump Administration Plan to Move USDA Research Agencies

Statement by Mike Lavender, Union of Concerned Scientists

Published Feb 14, 2019

WASHINGTON (February 14, 2019)—House Representatives today reintroduced a bill to halt Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue’s short-sighted plan to reorganize and relocate hundreds of scientists at two key U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) research agencies. The Agriculture Research Integrity Act of 2019  would prevent this unnecessary and disruptive move, which more than 1,000 scientists have opposed on the grounds that it threatens scientific integrity at the department. Thirteen House members support the bill unveiled this morning by Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME), which she previously introduced shortly before the end of the 115th Congress.

Secretary Perdue’s announcement of the plan last August surprised and troubled researchers at the Economic Research Service (ERS) and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), who value proximity to policymakers and other federal science agencies in the national capital region. Previously, the Trump administration had proposed slashing the ERS budget by more than half. A lengthy government shutdown in January further eroded morale at the USDA, and ERS employees may soon vote to join the nation’s largest federal employee union in an effort to protect their ability to do their jobs.

By keeping ERS and NIFA under the purview of the USDA’s chief scientist and close to the center of federal policymaking, the legislation introduced today would safeguard science from ideological influence and ensure agency scientists can continue their effective collaboration, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

Below is a statement by Mike Lavender, senior manager of government affairs for the Food and Environment Program at UCS. 

“Nonpartisan research produced by the Economic Research Service and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture is critical to informing policy decisions that affect agriculture and our food supply. At a time of mounting threats—from climate instability and declining farm profits to diet-related diseases and agricultural pollution—Secretary Perdue’s pernicious proposal would detract from USDA’s science-based mission and leave farmers in the lurch. We’re grateful to Representative Pingree for her leadership and defense of agriculture research.”