Blog Archives

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.

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

USDA Names New ERS Administrator

Dr. Spiro Stefanou has been appointed to lead the Economic Research Service (ERS), one of the two principal statistics agencies within the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Stefanou is an agricultural economist who previously served as a professor of economics at the University of Florida and at Penn State University. Stefanou will be taking the helm of an agency that has had a rocky several years, after the Administration’s controversial decision to move the agency to Kansas City led to significant attrition and loss of expertise at the agency.

Back to this issue’s table of contents.

Tagged with: , , ,
Posted in Issue 18 (September 15), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

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.

Back to this issue’s table of contents.

Tagged with: , , , ,
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.

Back to this issue’s table of contents.

Tagged with: , , , , , ,
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).

Back to this issue’s table of contents.

Tagged with: , , , ,
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.

Back to this issue’s table of contents.

Tagged with: , , ,
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).

Back to this issue’s table of contents.

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

NIFA Releases Evaluation of Capacity Funding Mechanism

The Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) recently released a report that measures the effectiveness of NIFA research, education, and extension investments at land-grant colleges and universities (“capacity grants”). The report, Quantitative and Qualitative Review of NIFA Capacity Funding, was prepared by TEConomy Partners, LLC. The report finds that the capacity funding model is able to produce a high return on investment and leverage matching state and local funding for projects. It concludes, “Capacity Funding carries substantial and significant ongoing advantages as an R&D and extension funding model.” The report is available in full on the NIFA website.

Back to this issue’s table of contents.

Tagged with: , ,
Posted in Issue 7 (April 4), Update, Volume 36 (2017)

Trump Administration Releases Preliminary Details on FY 2018 Budget

On March 16, the Trump Administration released preliminary, high-level details of its fiscal year (FY) 2018 budget request, referred to as a “skinny budget.” Full budget details are expected sometime in May.

There are few surprises in the President’s “safety and security” budget blueprint. Major reductions are proposed for nondefense discretionary programs (including research accounts) in order to finance $54 billion in increases for the Department of Defense. Of course, to achieve such a reallocation, Congress would need to act to adjust the budget caps that are currently governing defense and nondefense discretionary spending; the President cannot unilaterally shift funds from nondefense accounts to defense under current law.

For now, the budget only includes proposals for Cabinet-level departments and a handful of other “major” agencies. For example, it includes preliminary details for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) (which would take a $6 billion hit) but not for the National Science Foundation (NSF). Instead, NSF appears to be lumped in with “Other Agencies,” which collectively would receive a 10 percent cut in FY 2018 (see the chart below). This DOES NOT necessarily mean that NSF is slated for a 10 percent cut; we will have to wait to see the details in May.

Read on for COSSA’s analysis of the FY 2018 proposal as known so far.

Back to this issue’s table of contents.

Tagged with: , , , ,
Posted in Issue 6 (March 21), Update, Volume 36 (2017)

State of Play: FY 2017 Funding for Social Science Research

Congress has adjourned for a seven-week recess and will not be returning to work until after Labor Day. Despite promises for a return to “regular order” in the annual appropriations process, we find ourselves in familiar territory with none of the 12 annual spending bills expected to be enacted into law before the new fiscal year begins October 1. In fact, none of the bills that fund research agencies and programs (the Commerce, Justice Science bill and the Labor, HHS, Education bill) have yet to make it to the House or Senate floors for debate.

Upon returning to work in September, Congress will be faced with a full plate of must-pass legislation and a limited number of days before breaking again for the fall elections. Among the countless unknowns surrounding a possible endgame strategy for appropriations is one certainty – the need to pass a stopgap funding measure, known as a continuing resolution (CR), to avoid a government shutdown come October 1. The length of the impending CR, though, is still up for debate. Scenarios range from a CR of a couple of months with final action completed in the December timeframe (forcing a lame duck session of Congress after the November elections), to a six-month-long CR that would delay action until after the new Administration and Congress are sworn in, to possibly a year-long continuing resolution that would fund agencies at the FY 2016 level through the end of next fiscal year. These details will need to be sorted out over the next several weeks, and consensus remains far-off. However, all parties appear equally committed to avoiding a government shutdown.

COSSA has been reporting on the status of the FY 2017 appropriations bills over the last several months. Read on for a recap of progress made to date as it relates to social and behavioral science research. Congress will pick up where it left off when Members return to work in September. Full details on the various bills considered so far can be viewed on the COSSA website.

Back to this issue’s table of contents.

Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Issue 15 (July 26), Update, Volume 35 (2016)


Click here to subscribe to the COSSA Washington Update, our biweekly newsletter.


Looking for something from a previous issue of the COSSA Washington Update? Try our archive.


Browse by Month