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Center for American Progress

RELEASE: New CAP Analysis Says This Year’s Food Insecurity Report Could Be the Last One Free of Political Influence
Press Release

Washington, D.C. — Today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service (ERS) released new data showing that, in 2017, 15 million U.S. households—nearly 1 in 8—were food insecure.

The data come just weeks after the Trump administration announced that it will move the ERS to a yet-to-be-determined location outside of the Washington metro area before the end of 2019. The ERS will also be moved away from the USDA’s research arm to the Office of the Chief Economist, where many political decisions are made.

A new CAP analysis examined the implications of moving the ERS and found:

  • The move opens the door to political influence by the Trump administration: Much of the ERS’ analysis—on subjects ranging from food insecurity and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to market trends of crops and livestock, to conservation and climate change—contradicts the political views of the Trump administration. Moving the ERS both geographically and administratively will subject the data and analysis it produces to greater scrutiny from political appointees.
  • This is part of an ongoing Trump administration war on data: While there have been several notable attempts to undermine the agencies that produce public information dating back to 2001, the Trump administration has ramped up this trend, even threatening the constitutionally mandated decennial census. The decision to move the ERS is part of this pattern of attempting to undermine public research.

“Trump tried to deny poverty’s existence, and now he is trying to politicize one of the agencies that measures it by moving the ERS,” said Rachel West, director of research for the Poverty to Prosperity Program at the Center for American Progress and a co-author of the analysis. “By including the ERS in part of its ongoing war on data, the Trump administration threatens our collective understanding of the impact of poverty and anti-poverty programs, ultimately making it more difficult to address the food insecurity of 15 million U.S. households.”

Read the column: “Trump USDA’s New Plan for Agencies Is Latest Setback to Public Research” by Ryan Richards, Andrew Schwartz, and Rachel West

For more information or to speak to an expert, contact Julia Cusick at jcusick@americanprogress.org or 202.495.3682.