Norton Requests Joint Hearing to Examine Proposal to Relocate Two USDA Agencies Out of D.C., Calls for Appropriators to Block Potentially Illegal Move
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) today called for the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the Agriculture Committee to hold a joint hearing to examine the legality of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) proposal to dismantle existing USDA agencies by moving the Economic Research Service (ERS) and the National Institute for Food and Agriculture from the nation’s capital by the end of 2019, as well as to move ERS into the Office of the Secretary, a political branch. Norton asked the committees to investigate whether USDA has the legal authority to relocate the agencies without congressional approval and the potentially harmful effects the moves could have on food research, particularly by leaving the impression of politicizing the scientific findings of the ERS, which sometimes run contrary to positions of an administration. Norton also called on appropriators to include a provision in the upcoming spending bill to prohibit USDA from carrying out the move.
“This bewildering action by the Trump administration would threaten existing USDA agencies whose independence is related to their science and research mandate, which has ensured they need not agree with the specific policies of any particular administration,” Norton said. “Particularly troubling would be placing the Economic Research Service, whose economic research must be objective, into a political office, the Office of the Secretary. No administration should be allowed to silence independent, nonpolitical agencies because their research may at times differ from its policies. Because the proposal to relocate USDA agencies out of D.C. appears to be unlawful and done without congressional consultation, an immediate hearing by the committees of jurisdiction is in order. Relocating these agencies is contrary to longstanding federal policy for consolidation, which saves funds and streamlines agencies in order to provide the most efficient services to the American people. Before USDA’s relocation proceeds, Congress must step in and stop this harmful action.”