- Earlier this year, President Trump proposed significant cuts to the USDA's Economic Research Service--50% cuts in fact:
Funding for ERS would be slashed by 50 percent, to $45 million, in part by eliminating "low-priority research" that the administration said was already being done by the private sector or nonprofits. The administration asks for the ERS to focus on core programs of data analysis and forecasts.
These cuts were restored by Congress in later versions of the budget--but that wasn't the end (see the third bullet below).
- In June, the Environmental Protection Agency announced the elimination of three science advisory committees including the Environmental Economics Advisory Committee:
The SAB approved retiring the Ecological Processes and Effects Committee (EPEC), the Environmental Economics Advisory Committee (EEAC) and the Environmental Engineering Committee (EEC). When issues arise in these three areas, the current make-up of the Board sufficiently represents expertise to oversee work on these subject matters and convene panels as statutorily authorized.
By my count, only three of the 43 current members of the Science Advisory Board have advanced degrees in economics. I will leave it to you to decide whether that is sufficient.
In a recent editorial in Science, Kevin Boyle and Matthew Kotchen--both members of the now-defunct Environmental Economics Advisory Committee--write:
...in June 2018, the EPA's Science Advisory Board (SAB) eliminated its Environmental Economics Advisory Committee (EEAC). The agency should be calling for more—not less—external advice on economics, given the Trump administration's promotion of economic analyses that push the boundaries of well-established best practices. The pattern is clear: When environmental regulations are expected to provide substantial public benefits, assumptions are made to substantially diminish their valuations.
- On August 15, the USDA announced their intent to realign and relocate the Economics Research Service, out of Washington D.C. The announcement caught more than a few people, well, off-guard:
Secretary Sonny Perdue’s surprise announcement last week that the department’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture and the Economic Research Service would be packing up and moving from D.C. was news to an important group of people — the staff members themselves. Department staff were informed of the plan about an hour before USDA unveiled it to the public...
But economists inside and outside ERS told POLITICO they are skeptical of the administration’s motives and worry that it will eventually lead to their work being overlooked, underfunded and potentially more susceptible to political influence.
Echoing the words of Boyle and Kotchen, the pattern in indeed clear: Objective economic research is being driven out of D.C.