USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue is forcing hundreds of federal employees to relocate and undermining scientific research in the process.
The Trump administration's war on science continues, this time by forcibly relocating two top research divisions of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
The head of the USDA, Sonny Purdue, announced Thursday that both the Economic Research Service (ERS) and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) would be moving from Washington, D.C., to Kansas City. As the move was announced, the workers in the room literally turned their backs on Perdue.
Now, several hundred highly skilled federal workers either have to move to Kansas City or give up their jobs. And in keeping with this administration's utter disregard for federal employees, Perdue didn't even have the decency to give them the heads up he'd promised. Instead, many employees first learned of their forced relocation from media reports.
The ERS has been in the crosshairs of the Trump administration for a while now. That's because ERS focuses on things like food security and climate change. The former the administration doesn't seem to care about, the latter it doesn't believe in. Similarly, NIFA does research that results in "conclusions that contradict the Administration's talking points" on things like how changes in trade policies can affect agriculture.
Fifty-six former high-level USDA officials wrote a letter to Congress opposing the move, explaining that relocating the divisions would decrease staff expertise because many of the workers will not choose to relocate. They estimate that the relocation would set ERS back five to 10 years because it will lose so many specialized employees. The officials also noted that the move would also decrease ERS' opportunity to collaborate with other agencies and limit their visibility to lawmakers.
Decreasing visibility and the size of the workforce is likely just what Perdue — and Trump — are hoping would happen. Perdue is already overseeing the drastic downsizing of the Job Corps Civilian Conservation Centers, where over 1,000 jobs have been slashed.
There's also the fact that the USDA doesn't have a chief scientist right now, and that's the person who is supposed to oversee ERS and NIFA. That's because Trump first tried to install Sam Clovis, a person with no science background whatsoever. Clovis also got caught up in the Russia scandal, so he had to withdraw from consideration.
This administration doesn't value science, and it doesn't value federal employees. It makes that clearer with each passing day.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.