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In August, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced it will move its Economic Research Agency (ERS) out of Washington, D.C., citing a cost savings to be gained by moving some agencies outside the beltway.

ERS is ranked the No. 3 agricultural economics research institution in the world, employing 330 people who provide economic research on and analysis of emerging issues in agriculture, food, the environment and rural America. Interdisciplinary teams comprise economists, sociologists, statisticians, demographers and agricultural experts covering everything from global trade to food safety.

This move has raised concern on a number of issues ranging from brain drain to food safety and the impact of this move on policy. Concern is so great about the damage the move will inflict on the nation’s ability to design and implement effective policy that 42 organizations, including the American Statistical Association, wrote to Congress urging that ERS: stay in the Washington, D.C., area; be protected as an independent statistical agency; and be given the resources needed to maintain the credibility and integrity of its research.

“In a stroke, an agency that took a century to build, an agency that contributes absolutely vital knowledge about farming, agriculture and rural America, will be set back decades,” says Lisa LaVange, American Statistical Association president. “That is just too big a loss to evidence-based policymaking in our food, agriculture and the rural economy.”