Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue recently announced plans to move the headquarters of the National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and the Economic Research Service (ERS) outside the Washington, DC area; and to take ERS out of the Research, Education, and Extension (REE) mission area and place it directly under the Secretary. This proposal has raised widespread concern for several reasons:
- The physical move will force agency employees, including many highly qualified scientists with years or decades of service, to either relocate or resign their positions.
- The disruption of this move will negatively impact the efficacy of key NIFA programs, including Organic Research and Extension Initiative (OREI), Sustainable Agriculture Research and Extension (SARE), Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP), and Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI).
- The move will also make it harder for NIFA and ERS to coordinate and communicate with other DC based agencies with whom they work regularly.
- Taking ERS out of REE and placing it directly under the Secretary will seriously compromise its capacity to conduct unbiased analyses, including evaluations of the efficacy of other USDA programs like Value Added Producer Grants.
In response to this development, NSAC has worked with other advocates and the wider research community to bring concerns to key Members of Congress and to USDA Deputy Secretary Censky; and to gather organizational signatures on a letter to Congressional leaders.
For more, see http://sustainableagriculture.net/blog/ag-research-reorganization/ and http://sustainableagriculture.net/blog/fy2019-appropriations-minibus/ (“relocation” paragraph).
What You can Do:
- Contact your Senators and your Representative to register your concern about the proposed reorganization, and urge Congress to initiate a thorough review.
- If you are a credentialed scientist or agricultural professional, sign the OFRF / UCS letter at https://secure.ucsusa.org/onlineactions/oTAVl5MabkSXxdcCE8q4Zg2.
Take Action: Petition to the 2018 Farm Bill Conference Still Open
National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) is still collecting individual signatures on a petition urging Farm Bill Conferees to adopt a better Farm Bill. If you have signed already – many thanks!! If not, visit http://sustainableagriculture.net/take-action/ to join this action.
2018 Farm Bill Process, continued
As noted in last month’s policy update, the Farm Bill Conference must reconcile two highly contrasting Farm Bills into a final version to be passed and signed into law, shaping the next five years of USDA policy, programs, and funding. Congress has only a few working days left before the end of September, when the 2014 Farm Bill expires, putting many smaller programs at risk of being suspended. In the event that the Farm Bill Conference cannot complete its work by September 30, the current Farm Bill will need to be extended, with specific provisions to keep the “tiny but mighty” programs in operation. For more information see NSAC blog posts http://sustainableagriculture.net/blog/tiny-but-mighty-farmbill-series/, and http://sustainableagriculture.net/blog/whats-at-stake-local-food/. Additional posts will follow.
On the positive side, we have garnered significant support in the House for some of the more forward-looking provisions in the Senate Farm Bill. On September 6, a bipartisan letter, initiated by Representatives Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) and Sanford Bishop (D-GA) and signed by 51 other Representatives from both parties, was delivered to the Conference, urging them to adopt the Farmer Opportunity Training and Outreach (FOTO) program, which would integrate the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program and the Outreach and Assistance to Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers programs into a permanently-funded program serving all of these historically under-served constituencies. For more information, visit http://sustainableagriculture.net/blog/comment-nsac-cheers-house-effort-to-support-next-generation-of-american-producers/.
On September 11, another bipartisan letter initiated by Representative Chellie Pingree (D-ME) and signed by 43 other Representatives urged the Conference to adopt the Local Agriculture Markets Program (LAMP), which integrates Value Added Producer Grants and Farmers Market and Local Foods Promotion Programs. This letter complements another letter recently delivered to the Farm Bill Conference, signed by NSAC, VABF, and over 300 other food and farm organizations in support of LAMP. For more information see blog post at http://sustainableagriculture.net/blog/lamp-press-comment/.
Watch for unfolding developments at http://sustainableagriculture.net/ – check the links to “press”, “blog”, and “take action for new postings.