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Trumpification of USDA?

Summary:
The demolishment of technocratic and research groups continues. From Politico (8/15): Staff members at USDA’s Economic Research Service were blindsided by Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue’s decision to move the agency out of Washington, and agricultural economists are concerned the department’s economic research arm could be weakened by the changes. When Perdue announced last week that ERS and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture would be relocated by the end of 2019 and that ERS also would be realigned with the Office of the Chief Economist, he cited anticipated cost savings, the ability to provide better customer service by operating closer to USDA’s constituents, and the opportunity to better attract and retain staff by sparing them from the high cost of living inside the

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The demolishment of technocratic and research groups continues.

From Politico (8/15):

Staff members at USDA’s Economic Research Service were blindsided by Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue’s decision to move the agency out of Washington, and agricultural economists are concerned the department’s economic research arm could be weakened by the changes.

When Perdue announced last week that ERS and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture would be relocated by the end of 2019 and that ERS also would be realigned with the Office of the Chief Economist, he cited anticipated cost savings, the ability to provide better customer service by operating closer to USDA’s constituents, and the opportunity to better attract and retain staff by sparing them from the high cost of living inside the Beltway.

Those goals, however, were questioned by many rank-and-file economists at ERS, multiple sources within the agency said, in part because staff was not informed of the plan until shortly before USDA fired off a press release to the public.

I wonder how much of this is all “killing the messenger”. ERS yesterday released a downbeat forecast of farm income. Off the ERS front page, here is sampling of recent analyses:


These seem pretty innocuous to me, but I think AgSec Perdue must view independent research as either irrelevant or problematic. Perhaps this is all unsurprising given who Perdue has tried to select for adviser.

Perdue has also supported the appointment of people clearly unqualified for the job—like Sam Clovis, a talk radio host and Trump campaign national co-chair who was nominated for the USDA’s undersecretary for research, education, and economics, despite having none of the scientific training or experience that the law requires for this position. While his past embrace of conspiracy theories, racist and otherwise offensive statements, and revelations that Clovis was involved in Trump campaign contacts with Russia eventually proved too much for his nomination, he has remained in the USDA as a senior advisor.

An informed assessment here.

First they came for the climate change scientists. Then they came for the mercury specialists. Then they came of the USDA economists…

Menzie Chinn
He is Professor of Public Affairs and Economics at the University of Wisconsin, Madison

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