Economist says pulling ERS out of D.C. needs more thought

An ag economist says there needs to be more evaluation of USDA’s decision to move the Economic Research Service (ERS) and National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) out of Washington D.C.

Scott Swinton with Michigan State University tells Brownfield USDA split ERS employees between the nation’s Capitol and the states in the 90’s and it didn’t work, “The decision was taken back in 1994 or earlier to bring them all together to do a better job of focusing on national problems.”

Swinton says moving ERS will limit economists’ ability to interact with policy makers and regulators, and potentially create staffing shortages if employees are unwilling to move, “These are not decisions that should be made casually. They might be the right decision, but we need to have a careful benefit/cost analysis.”

He says there’s no formal process for the public to weigh in on this decision.

Senate Ag Committee Chairman Pat Roberts and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow have sent a bipartisan letter to Secretary Sonny Perdue saying stakeholders have raised concerns about the proposal and want answers to what’s driving the announcement.

Swinton says the Trump administration proposing to cut ERS funding by nearly 50 percent in past budget proposals also suggests efforts to weaken the program.

AUDIO: Interview with Scott Swinton

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