If Washington doesn’t want USDA’s independent research arm, 136 other places say they do
October 23, 2018
In August, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced a plan to move two crucial bi-partisan—and independent—research-related agencies out of Washington, D.C., and restructure them as smaller subsidiaries of the Office of the Chief Economist. It was an announcement that bewildered many USDA observers—and even the agencies’ approximately 690 employees, some of whom were made aware of the news as we were reporting it. At the time, USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue said the department planned to move the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), which is responsible for funding agriculture research at land-grant universities, and the Economic Research Service (ERS), which publishes non-partisan research reports on trends in food and agriculture, out of the nation’s capital to save money on payroll and rent, move researchers closer to the agricultural community, and improve ERS’s poor job retention rate.