conveyed as such. This report has outlined steps that can be taken in pursuit of these goals. Their attainment is essential to maintaining the world leadership of the more broadly defined U.S. food and agricultural sector and to addressing key economic problems facing the United States and the world.
This report began by considering the nature of public economic policy and by indicating the enormous benefits that derive from informed public economic policy. It has presented several alternative arrangements for the production of information, research, and analysis to inform public economic policy. Both history and analysis indicate that, in the case of ERS, some of these arrangements work well and others do not, and this report provides some reasons why this is so. The report's recommendations, based on this history and analysis, provide a process for finding effective arrangements.
Adoption of the recommendations in this report will be effective only if there is agreement among senior policy makers on the principal points underlying them. These points include the nature of public economic policy and the desirability of informed rather than uninformed public economic policy. In the production of information, research, and analysis to inform public economic policy, they include the principle of competition and the desirable attributes of quality, relevance, timeliness, and credibility.
The operation, even the concept, of an agency that informs policy decisions with credible and relevant information but that is not connected to or informed by decision makers is vulnerable, indeed, it is fragile, as amply demonstrated by the history of ERS. Yet the same history indicates that this role is essential to success in informing policy decisions. The concept of such an agency is too fragile to sustain disparate expectations by the executive and legislative branches. It requires cooperation and agreement between the secretary and the relevant congressional leadership on a common set of expectations and rules for shared access to ERS services and its role and expected behavior in dealing with both branches of government. Only in such an environment will informed public economic policy survive.