Blog Archives

Biden Nominates ARS Administrator to lead USDA Research

The Biden Administration has announced the nomination of Dr. Chavonda Jacobs-Young to serve as the Department of Agriculture’s Under Secretary for Research, Education, and Economics (REE). The REE Under Secretary oversees the Department’s science and research activities, including the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), the Economic Research Service (ERS), and the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). Dr. Jacobs-Young is currently the Administrator of another REE agency, the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and has also been serving as Acting REE Under Secretary. A Senate confirmation hearing has not yet been scheduled.

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Posted in Issue 16 (August 3), Update, Volume 40 (2021)

Trump Names New NIFA Director

In December, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the appointment of Dr. Carrie Castille as the director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), the Department’s extramural research agency. Dr. Castille has worked on Farm Production and Conservation as well as Rural Development within USDA and previously served as an Assistant Professor of Agriculture at Louisiana State University. Dr. Castille’s six-year term began on January 4, 2021. She succeeds Acting Director Parag Chitnis, who led the agency following J. Scott Angle’s departure in July 2020, two years into his six-year term.

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Posted in Issue 1 (January 5), Update, Volume 40 (2021)

October’s Headlines Webchat to Feature Deep Dive on Challenges Facing USDA Research and Statistics

headlines bannerCOSSA members are encouraged to sign up for the monthly COSSA Headlines webchat on Thursday October 10, in which COSSA staff will recap the most important social and behavioral science news from the past month and answer participants’ questions. The October chat will feature Katherine Smith Evans, Director of the Committee for Government Relations for the American Economic Association and former Administrator of the Economic Research Service, on challenges facing the Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service (ERS) and National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). Individuals employed by or affiliated with a COSSA member organization or university can register for the webchat here.

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Posted in Issue 19 (October 1), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

Senate Makes Progress on FY 2020 Appropriations for NSF, Census, NIH, Education, USDA

With the passage of a continuing resolution through Thanksgiving giving Congress some breathing room to complete fiscal year (FY) 2020 appropriations, the Senate Appropriations Committee has finally made progress in approving a number of its annual appropriations bills. COSSA has released analyses of three Senate bills that fund agencies important to the social and behavioral sciences:

Full coverage of FY 2020 appropriations, including analyses of the corresponding House proposals, is available on the COSSA website.

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Posted in Issue 19 (October 1), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

FY 2020 Agriculture Bill Advances in House

The House Appropriations Committee approved its fiscal year (FY) 2020 Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill on June 4. This bill contains funding for the two U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) statistical agencies, the Economic Research Service (ERS) and the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), as well as the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), which funds competitive research projects. The bill was marked up in subcommittee on May 23.

At a Glance…

  • The bill contains language prohibiting the move of ERS and NIFA outside of the National Capital Region. The House Agriculture Committee is also investigating this issue and held a hearing on June 5 on “Examining the Impacts of Relocating USDA Research Agencies on Agriculture Research.”
  • The House bill would provide ERS with $87.8 million, a 1.2 percent increase from FY 2019 and a rejection of the steep cuts proposed by the Administration.
  • The bill would provide NASS with $180.8 million, an increase of $6.3 million and $17.8 million above the Administration’s request.
  • The House mark would provide NIFA with a total of $1.6 million in discretionary funds, a $142.8 million increase for the agency compared to FY 2019 and $222.4 million above the Administration’s request.

Read on for COSSA’s analysis of the House Appropriations Committee’s proposals for the Economic Research Service, National Agricultural Statistics Service, and National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

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Posted in Issue 12 (June 11), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

Pingree Reintroduces Bill to Block USDA Research Moves

Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME) has reintroduced a bill from the last Congress that would prevent the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) from moving the authority of any of the agencies within the USDA mission area of Research, Education, and Economics (REE) to elsewhere within the Department of Agriculture and from moving the headquarters of agencies within the REE mission area from outside of  the National Capitol Region. The bill, the Agriculture Research Integrity Act (ARIA) (H.R. 1221) would prevent the Administration’s controversial plans to move the Economic Research Service (ERS) to the Office of the Chief Economist and to physically move both ERS and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) outside of the Washington, DC region (see COSSA’s coverage). The bill is co-sponsored by Reps. Sanford D. Bishop, Jr. (D-GA), Salud Carbajal (D-CA), Henry Cuellar (D-TX), Rosa L. DeLauro (D-CT), Marcia L. Fudge (D-OH), Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Annie Kuster (D-NH), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Betty McCollum (D-MN), James P. McGovern (D-MA), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Jimmy Panetta (D-CA), and Mark Pocan (D-WI).

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Posted in Issue 4 (February 19), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

Senate Committee Seeks Answers from USDA on ERS/NIFA Plans

On September 7, the bipartisan leadership of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry sent a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Sonny Perdue with a list of questions about the Department’s plans to move the Economic Research Service (ERS) and National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) out of the Washington, DC area and to realign ERS with the Office of the Chief Economist (see COSSA’s previous coverage). In the letter, Committee Chair Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) cite stakeholders’ concerns that the moves will lead to a “sharp loss of knowledgeable staff” and “erode critical partnerships with other federal agencies who are engaged in interdisciplinary research.” The letter asks for more detail from USDA on the motivation and rationale for the decision, the Department’s plans to execute the moves, and the legal authority underlying USDA’s ability to realign ERS. While no bipartisan action has been taken in the House, Democrats have expressed concerns about the proposal, including Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), and the Democrats on the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee. A number of concerned stakeholder groups will hold a webinar with former USDA officials on Thursday, September 20.

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Posted in Issue 18 (September 18), Update, Volume 37 (2018)

USDA Announces Plans to Move NIFA and ERS out of DC, Realign ERS with Chief Economist

In August, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that it plans to move two science agencies, the Economic Research Service (ERS) (one of USDA’s two principal statistical agencies) and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) (USDA’s main extramural research agency), out of the Washington, D.C. region. USDA cited high attrition rates at these agencies as justification for moving them out of the region, although no data was provided. The Department also plans to administratively realign ERS from its current place within the Research, Education, and Economics (REE) mission area to the Office of the Chief Economist, citing their “similar missions,” although ERS is an official statistical agency bound by a set of directives and standards, while the Office of the Chief Economist primarily serves a policy-focused role. ERS’ longtime administrator, Mary Bohman, was reassigned ahead of this announcement.

The announcement has raised concerns for many in the science community. The move outside the D.C. area would almost certainly lead to a loss of highly specialized, expert staff at both agencies, and many are skeptical of the Department’s argument that retention is a problem for these agencies (both of which had been operating under a long-term hiring freeze). In addition, moving ERS from the research and data arm of USDA (which also includes ERS’s sister statistical agency, the National Agricultural Statistics Service) to a policy-focused area of the Department raises concerns about the agency’s ability to safeguard the independence of its data and findings.

USDA plans to proceed with these moves without Congressional or stakeholder approval. A Federal Register notice asking jurisdictions to volunteer to host one or both agencies (the deadline is September 14), but no other public feedback was requested. The Department expects the move to be completed by the end of 2019. COSSA has joined two letters (available here and here) asking Congress to intervene to stop USDA from moving ERS (a letter focused on NIFA is forthcoming).

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Posted in Issue 17 (September 4), Update, Volume 37 (2018)

White House to Appoint J. Scott Angle to Lead NIFA

On August 31, the White House announced that it intends to appoint Dr. J. Scott Angle to be Director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), the Department of Agriculture’s main extramural research agency. Dr. Angle is a soil microbiologist who most recently was the President and CEO of the International Fertilizer Development Center and has held administrative positions at the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at the University of Georgia and University of Maryland College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Dr. Angle would serve a six-year term, succeeding Dr. Sonny Ramaswamy, whose term ended in May. As NIFA Director, Dr. Angle would be tasked with overseeing the agency’s move away from the National Capitol Region, which stakeholders are concerned could threaten the agency’s ability to operate effectively (see other article).

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Posted in Issue 17 (September 4), Update, Volume 37 (2018)

House and Senate Committees Approve FY 2019 Agriculture Funding

The House and Senate Appropriations Committees have approved their fiscal year (FY) 2019 Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bills. This bill contains funding for the two U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) statistical agencies, the Economic Research Service (ERS) and the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), as well as the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), which funds competitive research projects. The House bill (H.R. 5961) was approved by the subcommittee on May 9 and by the full committee on May 16. The Senate version of the bill, which does not yet have a bill number, was passed by the subcommittee on May 22 and by the full committee on May 24.

At a Glance…

  •  Both the House and Senate bills would maintain flat funding for ERS at $86.8 million, rejecting the nearly 50 percent cut proposed in the President’s request.
  • Both the House and Senate propose decreases for the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) as it ramps down from the 2017 Census of Agriculture; the House proposal of $173.7 million is $1.1 million below the Senate’s proposed $174.8 million. However, both levels are higher than the amount proposed in the President’s request.
  • The House bill would provide $1.45 billion for NIFA, which is 2.8 percent above FY 2018. The Senate bill includes $1.42 billion, an increase of 1.1 percent. Both chambers propose increases for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, with the House proposing a larger increase than the Senate.

The next step for both bills is consideration by their respective chambers. Both the House and Senate leadership have expressed a commitment to trying to pass at least some of the FY 2019 appropriations bills before the start of the new fiscal year on October 1. However, with August recess and the peak of campaign season quickly approaching, it remains to be seen which bills will be passed and when.

Read on for COSSA’s analysis of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees’ proposals for the Economic Research Service, National Agricultural Statistics Service, and National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

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Posted in Issue 11 (May 29), Update, Volume 37 (2018)

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