The decision to move two critically important agencies that deal with agriculture is great news for Kansas City, but a horrible one for farmers and the country.
Approximately 500 professionals within the National Institute of Food and Agriculture and the Economic Research Service will be relocated.
The Economic Research Service provides the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the public with information and research on economic, environmental, food and agriculture conditions. The National Institute of Food and Agriculture has two primary functions. It helps states identify and meet research priorities and provides land-grant universities and other institutions with grants with the goals of increasing food production and safety, developing new products, improving animal and plant health, and improving human health through better nutrition.
There are several reasons the White House made the decision to move the agencies despite significant opposition from lawmakers and stakeholders. No hearings, as is customary when agencies are reorganized, were held so opponents could be heard.
It is yet another example of President Trump’s practice of ignoring those who might disagree with him.
Don’t believe that the move to Kansas will not have an impact on the quality of work done by both agencies. Many seasoned veterans have already left the Economic Research Service and many more are expected to retire or find other jobs rather than relocate.
“We are shocked and dismayed that USDA from the beginning has refused to go through the proper channels — including the solicitation of public comment and adhering to the will of Congress — for such a significant and disruptive change as relocating essential government research agencies,’’ wrote Julie Obudzinski, interim director of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.
The Agriculture Economic Research issues reports relating to economic conditions in farming, which allows lenders and farming professionals to make better decisions. It is supposed to be an apolitical organization, but insiders say U.S. Department of Agriculture executives, at the urging of the White House, are being pressured to downplay negative findings while praising policies enacted by the executive branch.
The White House also has ordered all reports by the research service to be peer-reviewed before publication. That move is blatantly obvious — filter out any thing that hints certain executive branch policies have had a negative impact on farmers.
The move to politicize the agency has already caused many professionals to leave. The brain drain comes at a particularly bad time given that producers are in the throes of an economic downturn.
Ron Wasserstein, executive director of the American Statistical Service, hit the nail on the head with what is at stake.
“(USDA Secretary Sonny) Perdue is well on his way to dismantling a federal statistical agency that is one of the best agricultural economic research institutions in the world, having yet to provide a single reason for doing so … we all pay for a dismantled Economic Research Service that will never get back to its current number three-ranking in the world for agricultural economic research.’’
This is a silly move on the White House’s part. It will hurt both agencies’ abilities to fulfill their important missions. To make the move without input from the public and without Congressional oversight is not only wrong, it is a dangerous attempt to stifle both agencies’ abilities to provide unbiased information.
Because both agencies provide lawmakers with information that can be used to craft legislation, they should remain in Washington, D.C. A secretary of agriculture interested in serving farmers would stand up to the president on the matter.
Yes, Kansas City will benefit from the jobs that will be created by the move, but the entire country will suffer losses that may take years to recover from.