USDA Economic Research Service

The president's latest budget proposal suggests the following: 

The Budget proposes to streamline the research efforts of the Economic Research Service by eliminating low priority research that is being conducted within the private sector and by non-profits and focusing on core data analyses in line with priority research areas. The Budget fully funds the anticipated needs for the release of the Census of Agriculture and provides a framework to better streamline the Department’s statistical functions, leverage administrative efficiencies, and focus on core data products similar to other statistical agencies elsewhere within the Government.

This budget document (page 69) proposes a significant 47.7% cut for the Economic Research Service (ERS) - from $86 million to $45 million.  

Of course this is just a proposal and may not be enacted, but the size of the proposed cut is sufficient to raise eyebrows.  This is particularly true for agricultural economics profession, which often relies on ERS for data, funding, leadership, and employment. 

If you're not familiar with the ERS, there is a good chance a google search about almost any important topic related food or agricultural economics will ultimately point you to their website (here is one summary of the agency by a former ERS administrator). 

Ever wonder how we know things like: the farmer's share of the retail dollar, or per-capita consumption of beef, or cost of producing corn, or how food prices will change next year or the price of broccoli, or how farm sizes and structure have changed over time, or whether US agriculture is more or less productive now than in the past?  If so, you can thank the ERS.  It is true that many university researchers also work on these topics and produce similar statistics, but the ERS often provides widely established benchmarks and "gold standards." 

If you want to see the kinds of things the ERS does, following their daily "chart of note" is a good place to start.