USDA Research, Education and Economics Nominee Must Rebuild Workforce, Public Trust

Statement by Charlotte Kirk Baer, Union of Concerned Scientists

Published Jul 29, 2021

President Biden yesterday announced the nomination of Dr. Chavonda Jacobs-Young for Under Secretary for Research, Education, and Economics in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Jacobs-Young currently serves at the Acting Under Secretary and as Acting Chief Scientist for the USDA.

Below is a statement by Charlotte Kirk Baer, managing director of the Food and Environment Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

“We are thrilled to see the historic nomination of the first woman of color to this important scientific role. This position is critical to ensuring USDA’s research, policies, programs and recommendations are informed by science, and UCS has eagerly awaited President Biden’s nomination. Dr. Jacobs-Young has the experience and expertise to excel in this role and to help rebuild the USDA’s commitment to rigorous science.

“As a longtime administrator and civil servant who acted in USDA’s chief scientist role throughout the previous administration, Dr. Jacobs-Young is well aware of the immense challenges facing USDA and the agencies of its research, education and economics mission area. Science took a backseat at the USDA and was not just ignored but suppressed, while the Economic Research Service and National Institute of Food and Agriculture lost 75 percent of their staff due to intentional and political undermining and mismanagement.

“The USDA has been operating without a clear, coherent strategy to rebuild a strong, diverse and enduring workforce, with skills and expertise that are equal to the challenges our food and farm system are facing. It is now time for Dr. Jacobs-Young to develop and implement that strategy, while earning back the trust of USDA employees and the public in the agency’s commitment to honest and transparent science. We are hopeful she will lead the sorely needed revitalization of science and scientific integrity at USDA.”