House Democrats Look to Block Move of USDA Agencies
A contingent of House Democrats is strategizing to block the move of two USDA agencies. The Economic Research Service (ERS) and National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA) are both slated to be relocated outside of the Washington area to a yet-to-be-determined site, by the end of 2019.
Citing cost-cutting measures and the desire to move ERS and NIFA closer to rural communities, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced back in August that the two agencies would be leaving DC. Plans also call for the ERS to be realigned from the USDA’s research, education, and economics arm to the Office of the Chief Economist. Opponents have expressed concerns that ERS would become politicized and its independence undermined by this move. Furthermore, such a move could set both agencies back several years, as many current employees would be unable or unwilling to relocate.
136 competitive bids from communities across the US were accepted as alternatives to house ERS and NIFA. Secretary Perdue hopes to select a winner in January 2019. No updates have been issued since the start of the federal furlough.
In late December, House Representative Chellie Pingree (D-ME) introduced a bill, called the Agriculture Research Integrity Act of 2018, to keep ERS and NIFA located in the DC metro area and keep ERS under USDA’s research arm. Nine other Democratic representatives from across the U.S. currently support the bill. It may become a priority for House Democrats in 2019.