Congressman Sanford Bishop

Representing the 2nd District of Georgia

AGRICULTURE APPROPRIATIONS SUBCOMMITTEE MEMBERS SEND LETTER EXPRESSING CONCERN OVER USDA PROPOSAL TO RELOCATE AGRICULTURE RESEARCH AGENCIES

Sep 5, 2018
Press Release
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Last week, Ranking Member Sanford D. Bishop, Jr. (GA-02), Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (CT-03), Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (ME-01), and Congressman Mark Pocan (WI-02), the four democratic members of the U.S. House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, sent a letter to Secretary Perdue at the Department of Agriculture (USDA) to express their concerns with the agency’s proposal to relocate the Economic Research Service (ERS) and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) outside of Washington, D.C.  
 
On August 9, 2018, USDA suddenly announced plans to relocate ERS and NIFA, along with most employees, outside of Washington by the end of 2019. USDA claims that the move would improve recruitment and retention, increase stakeholder engagement, and save taxpayer dollars. However, USDA has not provided any information or data to Congress, agency employees, and the public to support these claims.
 
The appropriators, whose subcommittee holds oversight and funding authority over USDA, called on USDA to provide employee hiring data for ERS and NIFA for the last 5 years, data on anticipated staff loss if ERS and NIFA relocate, estimated costs associated with relocation, data on anticipated costs savings, a detailed timeline for the relocation, and the rationale for why ERS and NIFA, as opposed to other USDA agencies, need to move closer to stakeholders.
 
The Members wrote in their letter:
 
“We care deeply about USDA’s research agencies and their continued success. Farmers and consumers in our districts benefit daily from the work of ERS and NIFA, which have a worldwide reputation for identifying our most pressing agricultural issues and advancing innovative solutions to address those issues.” 
 
They continued:
 
“It worries us to hear reports that USDA’s reorganization announcement has jeopardized morale not only in the two affected agencies, but also across the Department as employees wonder whether other agencies will also be relocated. We hope that you will seek input from USDA employees as you consider future Department decisions.”
 
The full letter can be found here and below.
 
----------------
August 30, 2018
 
 
The Honorable Sonny Perdue
Secretary
U.S. Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Avenue, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20250
 
Dear Secretary Perdue:
 
As members of the House Committee on Appropriations’ Subcommittee on Agriculture Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies, we write to express our concerns about the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) recent reorganization proposal, which would move the Economic Research Service (ERS) and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) outside of Washington, D.C. 
 
We care deeply about USDA’s research agencies and their continued success.  Farmers and consumers in our districts benefit daily from the work of ERS and NIFA, which have a worldwide reputation for identifying our most pressing agricultural issues and advancing innovative solutions to address those issues. 
 
It is our understanding that USDA cited three reasons for its proposal to move ERS and NIFA outside of Washington, DC: difficulty with employee recruitment, the need to move resources closer to stakeholders, and savings associated with employment costs and rent.  We respectfully ask that you provide data and analysis to justify each of these reasons, including:
 
  • Employee hiring data for ERS and NIFA for the last 5 years, including evidence that USDA has had difficulty recruiting ERS and NIFA staff;
  • Data on anticipated staff loss if ERS and NIFA relocate;
  • Estimated costs associated with relocation assistance;
  • Data on anticipated cost savings related to rent and locality pay;
  • A detailed timeline for the proposed relocation; and
  • The rationale for why ERS and NIFA, as opposed to other USDA agencies, need to move closer to stakeholders.
 
Lastly, we are concerned that ERS and NIFA employees were not given the opportunity to provide input on this significant decision.  It worries us to hear reports that USDA’s reorganization announcement has jeopardized morale not only in the two affected agencies, but also across the Department as employees wonder whether other agencies will also be relocated.  We hope that you will seek input from USDA employees as you consider future Department decisions.
 
We welcome the opportunity to discuss USDA’s reorganization plan with you.  Thank you for your attention, and we look forward to your response.
 
Sincerely,
 
Sanford D. Bishop Jr.                                                                      
Member of Congress                                                                     
 
Rosa DeLauro
Member of Congress
 
Chellie Pingree                                                                 
Member of Congress                                                                     
 
Mark Pocan
Member of Congress
 
Issues: