Donald Trump’s continued assault on government workers betrays American farmersRoundup
tags: agriculture, Trump, farmers
Louis A. Ferleger is professor of History at Boston University and author of "Planting the Seeds of Research: How America's Ultimate Investment Transformed Agriculture."
President Trump has repeatedly attacked federal employees, most recently by proposing cuts to their retirement benefits and apparently undermining career Justice Department lawyers, several of whom have resigned. The Trump administration has similarly diminished the scientific capacity of the United States government by relocating the Economic Research Service and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture from Washington to Kansas City, Mo.
Although framed as a cost-cutting measure, many commentators have speculated that this move was designed to thin the ranks of government scientists, who would be reluctant to uproot their lives and move their families many miles. Indeed, significant numbers of scientists retired or found other jobs instead of moving to the Kansas City area. At the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, for example, nearly eight of every 10 employees have left.
And it’s not just the USDA. According to The Washington Post, nearly 700 scientists have left the Environmental Protection Agency in the past three years, and the EPA has hired only half that number to replace them. Overall, more than 1,600 federal scientists left government agencies in the first two years of the Trump administration.
Such moves are dangerous not just to the agricultural sector but also to the broader economy. America’s emergence by the middle of the 20th century as the world’s most successful economy relied on a key investment: the social commitment to build the capacity that enabled sustainable prosperity in U.S. agriculture. And this agricultural supremacy depended on government scientists.
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