Norton Says USDA Relocation Threatens Viability of the Agency
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) slammed the Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Secretary Sonny Perdue today, following reports that top scientists are deserting the USDA in high numbers as the agency seeks to relocate hundreds of staffers in two departments, the National Institute of Food and Agriculture and the Economic Research Service, outside of the National Capital Region. NPR specifically noted that “less than two-thirds of the researchers asked to relocate from Washington to the Kansas City area have agreed to do so.” Norton has vigorously fought this relocation, which the agency has no legal authority to conduct, and included provisions in the House’s fiscal year 2020 appropriations bills for the USDA and General Services Administration blocking them from using their funds from facilitating the move. However, these provisions would not take effect until the start of the next fiscal year 2020 (October 1st). In 2018, at the request of Norton and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), the USDA Inspector General (IG) began reviewing the proposed move.
“We do not intend to allow the deliberate effort by the Trump administration to destroy two vital departments, which conduct much-needed research,” Norton said. “I am optimistic USDA will not be able to carry out the full move before the new fiscal year begins. Past administrations have not been afraid of research from a small agency that was contrary to its policy preferences. Congress cannot do its work to write laws without the unvarnished facts that nonpartisan researchers give Congress and the administration on American farms and food policy.
“Staff is being driven out of USDA, which will directly hurt small-town farmers and our agriculture policy. Hundreds of federal employees and their families have been impacted by these misguided decisions, and I will continue to fight this illegal relocation with every tool at my disposal.”