Sunday, July 21, 2019

Trump administration trashes agriculture research agencies. What Trump does not want to know can hurt you.

If this administration does not value truth - and there are over 10,000 reasons to believe it does not - then how can it value the process by which truth is discovered?

An upheaval is in process at some of our premier agricultural research agencies. Under the guise of saving money, the AntiX crowd has decreed that hundreds of researchers will be transferred from their current agency labs and offices in the DC area to middle America, Kansas City to be precise. The catch is that most of the affected personnel are refusing to accept relocation and are quitting their jobs. That mass resistance is underway right now.

Many USDA workers to quit as research agencies move to Kansas City: ‘The brain drain we all feared’ is unfolding day by day reports the Washington Post.

Two research agencies at the Agriculture Department will uproot from Washington, D.C., to Kansas City in the fall. But many staffers have decided to give up their jobs rather than move, prompting concerns of hollowed-out offices unable to adequately fund or inform agricultural science.

About two-thirds of the USDA employees declined their reassignments, according to a tally the department released Tuesday. Ninety-nine of 171 employees at the Economic Research Service, an influential federal statistical agency, will not move. At the National Institute of Food and Agriculture [NIFA], which manages a $1.7 billion portfolio in scientific funding, 151 of 224 employees declined to relocate.

Workers who agreed to move must do so by Sept. 30, although USDA has not established permanent office space and has not said whether the agencies will be located on the Missouri or Kansas side of the Kansas City area. Workers who were asked to move but declined “will be separated by adverse action procedures,” per letters the employees received in June.

Reactions

Here’s Rachel Maddow’s reporting. “Rep. Jennifer Wexton talks with Rachel Maddow about the House Science Committee’s interest in the USDA’s apparent effort to force the resignation of staff scientists with a short notice relocation of the department.”

Perhaps there is a sinister motive: “Rachel Maddow reports on how the Obama administration responded to an alarming trend in the population of pollinators with science and studied policy, which is being turned back by the Trump administration as the EPA has allowed for expanded use of a pesticide that is considered highly toxic to bees.”

Jack Payne, University of Florida’s vice president for agriculture and natural resources, warned that the hemorrhage of employees will devastate ERS and NIFA. “This is the brain drain we all feared, possibly a destruction of the agencies,” Payne said.

Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) told The Washington Post, “This kind of staff loss will completely gut the ERA and NIFA, and will ultimately prevent the USDA from conducting critical research that helps grow the food our families eat.”

Katherine Smith Evans, the ERS administrator from 2007 to 2011, reviewed a list of employees who are leaving. Four of five economists working on bees and pollination at ERS have left or will leave, she said. Ten of 12 economists working on trade and international development have retired, already left or plan to do so. None of the farm finance and tax experts will remain with the agency. “I agree with people who say it will take 10 years to recover,” Smith Evans said.

Gale Buchanan, the USDA chief scientist and undersecretary for research, education and economics in the George W. Bush administration, said employees face “an almost impossible task” by trying to do their jobs with reduced numbers.

The decision process, he said, has been flawed. “I could live by whatever blue-ribbon committee recommended to do to address some of the concerns the secretary had,” Buchanan said. But, he added, “you don’t just pull an idea out of the air and, for some political reason, make a decision.”

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