NIFA, ERS Relocation Detrimental to Researchers, Family Farmers, and Consumers

US - The US Department of Agriculture's (USDA) relocation of two major research agencies is "misguided" and "detrimental to family farmers and ranchers and rural communities", according to the nation’s oldest general farm organisation.
calendar icon 19 July 2019
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National Farmers Union (NFU), whose 200,000 members support increased funding for public agricultural research, has been a vocal opponent of efforts to move the Economic Research Service (ERS) and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) outside of the nation’s capital on the grounds that it will diminish the influence and hinder the operations of both agencies.

In a statement submitted to the US Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, NFU President Roger Johnson articulated renewed concern about the process and its ramifications.

Mr Johnson said: "Any way you look at it, the relocation of NIFA and ERS is a no-win situation. Most obviously, it’s an extreme inconvenience for researchers within the agencies, most of whom will either have to uproot their entire lives or be out of a job.

"Since the vast majority are expected to choose the latter, both agencies could lose significant expertise and operational capacity, at least in the short term. This is a problem for both legislators, who use objective and robust science to develop effective policies, as well as the land grant universities and other entities who depend on NIFA grants to fund research projects and extension activities.

"The confluence of all these things is a catastrophe for family farmers and ranchers, who will suffer from the loss of the publicly funded agricultural research and evidence-based policies and programmes that help them improve productivity, steward natural resources, and access global markets. It will be just as detrimental to consumers, who rely on a knowledgeable and stable agricultural industry for a healthy, safe, and reliable food supply.

"The only apparent upside of this whole ordeal is the marginal monetary savings – and the evidence to support such savings is tenuous at best. By some estimates, the move could actually cost taxpayers more money, not less. Either way, there is no amount of money that could offset the incredible damage the relocation process is inflicting on NIFA and ERS employees, family farmers, and our national food system."

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