ASA Opposes USDA Plan Likely to Undermine Economic Research Service Work

The American Statistical Association (ASA) is actively opposing a recent United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) proposal to realign and relocate the Economic Research Service (ERS). The ASA’s concern is that moving ERS—a federal statistical agency and an internationally respected agricultural economics research institution—would undermine its work and product quality, thereby also affecting evidence-based policymaking in the USDA and food and agriculture more generally.

According to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, the intention is to save federal money and better serve customers. Following the announcement, the USDA moved quickly to issue a request for expressions of interest to host ERS and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, which is also slated for relocation. USDA plans to complete the relocations by the end of 2019.

ASA President Lisa LaVange sent letters to Congress August 22 urging representatives to “exercise your authority to maintain the USDA Economic Research Service as a strong and independent statistical agency.” The ASA also signed a letter organized by the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association (AAEA) to Congress with a similar request and a letter organized by the Friends of Agricultural Statistics and Analysis opposing the move. Additionally, ASA staff is working with other ERS stakeholders to communicate concerns to Congress and raise awareness about the proposal and concerns.

The ERS stakeholder community has been quick to respond. Former ERS Administrator Susan Offutt published an op-ed in The Hill, titled The Department of Agriculture Has a World-Class Economics Research Institution … And Is Throwing It Away, and AAEA Past President Scott Swinton published a column in the Des Moines Register, titled Knowing the Value of America’s Food.