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Why Not Eliminate Both Departments?

Summary:
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced plans to move its Economic Research Service and National Institute of Food and Agriculture out of Washington, D.C., to the Kansas City metropolitan area. The USDA, established in 1862, “is made up of 29 agencies and offices with nearly 100,000 employees who serve the American people at more than 4,500 locations across the country and abroad.” It provides “leadership on food, agriculture, natural resources, rural development, nutrition, and related issues based on public policy, the best available science, and effective management.” Its vision is “to provide economic opportunity through innovation, helping rural America to thrive; to promote agriculture production that better

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced plans to move its Economic Research Service and National Institute of Food and Agriculture out of Washington, D.C., to the Kansas City metropolitan area.

The USDA, established in 1862, “is made up of 29 agencies and offices with nearly 100,000 employees who serve the American people at more than 4,500 locations across the country and abroad.” It provides “leadership on food, agriculture, natural resources, rural development, nutrition, and related issues based on public policy, the best available science, and effective management.” Its vision is “to provide economic opportunity through innovation, helping rural America to thrive; to promote agriculture production that better nourishes Americans while also helping feed others throughout the world; and to preserve our Nation’s natural resources through conservation, restored forests, improved watersheds, and healthy private working lands.”

The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) has announced plans to move the headquarters of its Bureau of Land Management (BLM) out of Washington, D.C., to Grand Junction in western Colorado.

The DOI, established in 1849, “conserves and manages the Nation’s natural resources and cultural heritage for the benefit and enjoyment of the American people, provides scientific and other information about natural resources and natural hazards to address societal challenges and create opportunities for the American people, and honors the Nation’s trust responsibilities or special commitments to American Indians, Alaska Natives, and affiliated island communities to help them prosper.” It “manages the Nation’s public lands and minerals, including providing access to more than 480 million acres of public lands, 700 million acres of subsurface minerals, and 1.7 billion acres of the Outer Continental Shelf.” It “is the steward of 20 percent of the Nation’s lands, including national parks, national wildlife refuges, and other public lands; manages resources that supply 30 percent of the Nation’s energy; supplies and manages water in the 17 Western States and supplies 15 percent of the Nation’s hydropower energy.”

I have a better idea. Instead of moving agencies of the USDA and the DOI, why not eliminate both departments?

The existence of the USDA cannot be justified in any way by the Constitution. The Constitution nowhere authorizes the federal government to have anything to do with agriculture, food, farm subsidies, food stamps, loans to farmers, agricultural price supports, food distribution, food inspection, nutrition guidelines, or school breakfast and lunch programs.

Farming is an occupation and a business. It comes with risks and uncertainties just like any other business. There is nothing special about agriculture that necessitates that the federal government be involved in it in any way.

The DOI includes a diverse number of agencies:

  • Bureau of Indian Affairs
  • Bureau of Indian Education
  • Bureau of Land Management
  • Bureau of Ocean Energy Management
  • Bureau of Reclamation
  • Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement
  • National Park Service
  • Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  • U.S. Geological Survey

There is no constitutional authority for the federal government to have anything to do with fish and wildlife, minerals and mining, operating parks, or supplying water and power. The main problem is simply that the federal government still owns too much land.

According to a Congressional Research Service study (Federal Land Ownership: Overview and Data): “The federal government owns roughly 640 million acres, about 28% of the 2.27 billion acres of land in the United States.” The federal government owns:

  • 28.6% of Washington
  • 29% of Montana
  • 35.4% of New Mexico
  • 38.7% of Arizona
  • 45.9% of California
  • 53% of Oregon
  • 61.3% of Alaska
  • 61.6% of Idaho
  • 63.1% of Utah
  • 79.6% of Nevada

The only land that the federal government ought to own is the District of Columbia and some military bases (but certainly not as many as it has now). All federal land should be sold or transferred to the states.

Republicans used to talk about eliminating federal departments, agencies, bureaus, commissions, and corporations. But when they gained control of the White House and a majority in the House and Senate they did absolutely nothing to limit the size or scope of government. They actually made things worse with their creation of the monstrous Department of Homeland Security.

The Departments of Agriculture and the Interior don’t need some of their agencies moved, they need to eliminated in their entirety.

Laurence M. Vance
Laurence M. Vance is an author, a publisher, a lecturer, a freelance writer, the editor of the Classic Reprints series, and the director of the Francis Wayland Institute. He holds degrees in history, theology, accounting, and economics. The author of twenty-four books, he has contributed over 700 articles and book reviews to both secular and religious periodicals.

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