Bill Introduced to Block Relocation of USDA Research Agencies

Categories: USDA, The Insider

A bill has been introduced in the Senate to block the Trump administration’s plan to politicize scientific research and relocate two research agencies outside the capital.

The bill, Agriculture Research Integrity Act, would require that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s Economic Research Service (ERS) and National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) be located within the National Capital Region in order to “ensure maximum coordination and interaction” between those agencies and among other science agencies in the federal government.

The bill comes only weeks after ERS employees voted to join AFGE to have a voice at work and fight against the relocation of ERS to a location outside Washington, a move many see as a retaliation for their science-based research that contradicts the administration’s position on various issues including climate change and taxes. Since the announcement of the relocation, researchers and scientists have fled the agencies in droves.

“The experts at NIFA and ERS conduct the scientific research that helps grow the food our families eat. They need a seat at the table with decision makers,” said Sen. Van Hollen (D-Md.), who introduced the bill. “This proposed move – coupled with other efforts to undermine their work – is part of a broader effort by the Trump Administration to banish facts and science from policy decisions. We are committed to fighting it tooth and nail.”

“Once again, the Trump Administration is seeking to marginalize scientists and independent research, choosing to scatter federal employees and potentially politicize what has historically been the work of nonpartisan civil servants,” said Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), one of the co-sponsors of the bill. “With this bill, Congress has an opportunity to show its respect for our federal workforce and their work in advancing agriculture, food, the environment, and rural America on behalf of all Americans.”

Besides Van Hollen and Cardin, other co-sponsors of the bill are Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) Mark Warner (D-Va.); Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.); Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.); Patty Murray (D-Wash.); and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio).

We will keep fighting

ERS employees worked with our union and the House Appropriations Committee to block the relocation. The Fiscal Year 2020 funding bill for USDA, which was passed by the Agriculture subcommittee and is set to be considered by the full House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday, prohibits the use of federal funds to move the ERS and NIFA out of the D.C. area.

NIFA employees are also organizing a union in their workplace with the help of AFGE. Their union election is set for June 11.

“Just like we have been standing up and fighting back against numerous other anti-worker proposals from the Trump Administration, we will join the employees at ERS and NIFA in fighting against efforts to relocate them and politicize their research,” said AFGE President J. David Cox Sr. “AFGE thanks Senator Van Hollen for introducing this important legislation that will aid in our fight for fairness for these federal workers.”

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