October 28, 2018

Former USDA Chief Scientists Comment on USDA Research Relocation and Reorganization

Former USDA Chief Scientists Comment on USDA Research Relocation and Reorganization

A webinar on Agriculture Secretary Sunny Purdue’s proposal to relocate and reorganize the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and the Economic Research Service (ERS) took place on September 20.  Participants included Catherine Woteki (former USDA Under Secretary of Agriculture for Research, Education, and Economics (REE)), Gale Buchanan (former USDA Under Secretary of Agriculture for REE), Susan Offutt (former ERS Administration), Stephen Censky (current USDA Deputy Secretary), and Scott Swinton (Michigan State University). 

The former officials recommended that USDA:

  • Delay relocation until questions raised by Congress and stakeholders are addressed
  • Provide data and analysis:
    • Employee hiring, recruiting, and retention
    • Anticipated staff losses and recruitment, hiring, and training plans
    • Cost-benefit analysis including relocation costs
    • Detailed timeline and transition plan
  • Solicit feedback by convening formal public comments from the research community and stakeholders and address their concerns

Former top USDA officials argued that Congress should:

  • Delay relocation and reorganization by withholding appropriations for relocation expenses until questions of stakeholders are addressed
  • Request an independent cost-benefit analysis
  • Hold oversight hearings
  • Consider prohibiting relocation and reorganization in the Farm Bill

Current USDA Deputy Secretary reiterated the Administration’s position that the relocation and reorganization of NIFA and ERS would:

  • Reduce cost
  • Improve recruitment and retention
  • Enhance effectiveness by closer proximity to stakeholders

A recording of the webinar can be found here: http://apdu.org/2018/09/21/usda-research-relocation-and-reorganization-perspectives-from-former-usda-chief-scientists-and-administrators/