USDA Proposal to Move Economic Research Agency Closer to Secretary of Agriculture Threatens Scientific Integrity

Statement by Ricardo Salvador, Union of Concerned Scientists

Published Aug 9, 2018

WASHINGTON (August 9, 2018)—The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced new reorganization plans that would move the Economic Research Service (ERS) to the Office of the Chief Economist, which reports directly to the USDA secretary of agriculture. The ERS currently resides in the Research, Education and Economics mission area. The USDA also plans to relocate many of its scientists and researchers in ERS and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture from Washington, D.C. to outside the metropolitan area. Earlier this year, the Trump administration proposed slashing ERS’s funding by nearly half. These changes are yet another example of the Trump administration's attempts to weaken scientific integrity in policymaking, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

Below is a statement by Ricardo Salvador, senior scientist and director of the Food and Environment Program at UCS.

“Data collection must be objective and free from political interference. Bringing ERS closer to the direct supervision of a political appointee could potentially limit the integrity and autonomy of agency research. The USDA’s proposal would also literally distance scientists from the department’s decision-making process at a time when farmers, ranchers and eaters face significant challenges. Evidence-based research must be at the very center of the USDA’s mission.”