WASHINGTON, DC – Congressman Steny H. Hoyer (MD-05) and Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) released the following statement today on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Inspector General’s report examining the legality, rationale, and process used to develop the proposed relocation of two USDA agencies – the Economic Research Service (ERS) and the National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA):
“The Inspector General investigation clearly states that USDA’s efforts to relocate the Economic Research Service and the National Institute for Food and Agriculture violate provisions of the Consolidated Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2018. It is extremely disappointing, but not surprising in this Administration, that the USDA General Counsel argued, inconsistent with positions it had taken previously, that USDA can ignore those provisions. The Secretary must follow the will of Congress and refrain from moving forward with the relocation until Congress approves the use of funds for those purposes as directed by the fiscal year 2018 Consolidated Appropriations Act. USDA must follow the law, period. It ought not change interpretations when it is convenient for the Administration or the Secretary at any given moment.
“Additionally, we are disappointed that the Inspector General’s report fails to address numerous other concerns raised with the proposed relocation. These include that the relocation may have been driven by the desire to retaliate against agencies producing analyses on SNAP benefits, climate change, and tax policy that contradict the political messaging of the Trump Administration; that the stated rationale for the proposed move is to improve retention of employees, but that more than half of the current employees have indicated they will leave the agencies because of the relocation; that the site selection process appears to have been biased against keeping these agencies in the National Capital region; and that the proposed realignment of ERS appears to be inconsistent with previous policies designed to keep agencies free from the appearance of political interference.
“We continue to urge Secretary Perdue to halt this misguided relocation process that is causing massive attrition at these agencies, harming U.S. agriculture by undermining the missions of these agencies, and causing serious dislocation and upheaval for the families of hundreds of long-time federal employees."
Last September, Congressman Hoyer and Congresswoman Norton sent a letter to the USDA Inspector General requesting an investigation into the proposed relocation of ERS and NIFA. In November, Congressman Hoyer and Congresswoman Norton announced that the investigation into the relocation had begun. In February of this year, Congressman Hoyer and Congresswoman Norton introduced legislation to prevent the relocation, politicization, and weakening of federal agriculture research agencies. In April, the two Members sent a letter to the House Appropriations Committee urging the Committee to prohibit USDA from using funds to carry out the relocation. Earlier this month, Congressman Hoyer and Congresswoman Norton joined a letter to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue inquiring about the proposed relocation.