NIFA Relocation Action Alert

November 5, 2018

Dear friend of entomology,

TAKE ACTION; SHARE THIS INFORMATION

The Situation
On August 9, 2018, to the surprise of many government relations professionals and federal employees, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced the planned relocation of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) to a site outside of Washington, DC, to be completed by the end of 2019. NIFA provides critical leadership and funding for research in a breadth of sciences, both fundamental and applied, with the goal of ensuring the long-term viability of agriculture. The rationale for the move, as explained by Secretary Perdue and other Administration officials, is to better attract and retain staff trained in agriculture, place the agency closer to stakeholders, and save money. ESA agrees that these are all laudable goals and appreciates that NIFA leaders say that no employees will be involuntarily separated by the move.

However, ESA and many other scientific organizations are concerned about the speed and unintended consequences of this proposed move. These include the possibilities that:

  • taking this important agency out of the region will weaken its visibility among the federal research portfolio;
  • there will be a loss of efficiencies by employees, lawmakers, and stakeholders–all of whom rely on federal research agencies being in close geographic proximity to other scientific agencies;
  • no new location will put the agency closer to stakeholders, because agriculture is practiced—and is an important part of the economic engine—in all 50 states.

What You Can Do

If you are likewise concerned, we encourage you to call your Members of Congress to let them know your concerns with the proposal. A suggested script is provided below, along with links to find your legislators’ contact information. For all actions, please remember to be polite; staffers are working hard to field many calls. You may also want to:

  • tweet at Members of Congress with your concerns;
  • share this information with colleagues and friends.

Contact Info

Sample Email or Letter

Subject line: Opposition to relocation of NIFA

Dear Senator ___ or Representative ___,

On August 9, 2018, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced the relocation of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) to a site outside of Washington, DC, to be completed by the end of 2019. NIFA provides critical leadership and funding for research in a breadth of sciences, both fundamental and applied, with the goal of ensuring the long-term viability of agriculture. I am writing to express my concern about the impacts of this proposed move on NIFA and its mission.

Concern #1: Agriculture, including food security and biosecurity, is a vital component of our federal research portfolio, but this move will greatly decrease the visibility of agricultural research and consequently weaken public support and recognition of the value of agricultural research to society.

Concern #2: Research advances in agriculture are strongly intertwined with research advances in other scientific fields. Cross-fertilization among disciplines is currently promoted through interagency communications and collaborations, such as NIFA’s interactions with NIH, OSTP, NSF, EPA, DOE, and the FDA on issues such as food safety, biosecurity, and microbiomes in human and plant health. Interagency collaborations have been fostered by close proximity and frequent interactions among federal agency staff. Therefore, moving NIFA outside of Washington, DC, will severely reduce opportunities for these interactions.

Concern #3: NIFA administers federal funding for research; the public trust in managing federal funds for research requires the agency to be free from undue influence by individual stakeholders. Secretary Perdue has stated a desire to relocate NIFA to place USDA resources closer to many of its stakeholders, but this relocation runs the risk of increasing the influence of a small number of local stakeholder groups. Since agriculture is practiced in all of the states in our country, moving NIFA out of Washington, DC, would simply move it closer to some stakeholders and farther from others. Moreover, the move could provide local stakeholders with a disproportionate influence on the administration of public funds for research.

Concern #4: NIFA’s programs aim to promote discoveries that address significant issues affecting food, agriculture, and our nation’s natural resources. The strategic investment of our tax dollars requires a thorough understanding of these issues, and this understanding comes from frequent interactions with a broad base of stakeholders. Many stakeholders, including policymakers and representatives of land-grant universities, incur cost-savings by combining visits to NIFA and other Washington, DC, agencies. However, if NIFA is at another location, either NIFA will need to incur the travel costs (which will negate some of the cost savings of relocating outside of Washington, DC) or the stakeholders will incur additional costs or reduce their interactions with NIFA and thus lessen NIFA’s engagement and visibility.

In light of these concerns, I request that you take action to delay the planned relocation of NIFA to a yet-to-be-designated site outside of Washington, DC, in 2019, until USDA can fully account for the continuity of expertise and programming without interruption and provide thorough details on proposed cost savings and recruiting of expertise to the chosen location.

I urge you to take action to ensure a reasonable timeframe to allow a smooth, planned transition by the agency; the announcement in August of an entire agency move within 15 months has the potential to seriously impair NIFA for years to come. NIFA’s activities are critical to agricultural research, and the agency deserves the opportunity to plan and execute a move that will strengthen rather than weaken its ability to serve the public.

Thank you for your consideration.

Respectfully,

(your signature block)