Fighting for Science
Tufts President Anthony Monaco was on Capitol Hill on Wednesday and Thursday, expressing strong opposition to President Trump’s proposal to defund the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts (HNRCA). “At a time when health care is at the top of the American agenda, it makes no sense to eliminate a center that makes a major contribution to the health of our society,” Monaco said. “The science at the HNRCA is translated into policy and action and is crucial to uncovering the keys to healthy aging and to reducing the impacts of chronic disease.”
Trump’s 2018 budget proposal, released in May, would dramatically reduce the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service funding by 22 percent and eliminate 17 programs, including the nutrition centers at Tufts University, the University of Arkansas and Baylor University. Trump has also proposed major funding cuts to other research agencies, including the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Monaco, accompanied by Vice Provost for Research Simin Meydani and Senior Vice President for University Relations and General Counsel Mary Jeka, met individually with six members of Congress. In those meetings, Monaco advocated for the HNRCA, which he called “one of the largest and most respected research centers in the world studying healthy aging and its relationship to nutrition and physical activity.”
Both U.S. senators and all nine U.S. House members for Massachusetts signed a June 15 letter to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget, strongly opposing the “wrongheaded cuts” to USDA research programs in the president’s budget request. The letter praised the HNRCA’s studies on the role of nutrition in preventing cancer, heart disease, infectious disease and Alzheimer’s. “Diet-related disease has become America’s largest single cause of premature death and disability,” the politicians wrote. “More research is needed to address the nutritional needs of all Americans, with specific attention given to the elderly, the fastest growing segment of the nation’s population.”
Monaco met with Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), a vocal crusader against child hunger and a longtime advocate of the HNRCA, who is a leader in the fight to preserve its funding. He is the ranking member of the Subcommittee on Nutrition and co-chair of the House Hunger Caucus. At a House Agriculture Committee hearing in June, he praised the HNRCA’s efforts “to find ways to continue to improve health care and save lives.” He called on his colleagues in farm states to defend against cuts to agricultural science, research that they have said is important to their own districts. “I just hope the budget that we enact reflects our rhetoric,” McGovern said. “We need to make sure that the funds are there.”
Monaco also met with Sen. Ed Markey, Rep. Katherine Clark and Rep. Mike Capuano, all from the Massachusetts delegation. He spoke with Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), who received his BA in economics and political science from Tufts in 1969, and Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.), A75, who majored in history. He also advocated for Tufts’ scientific priorities with France Cordova, director of the National Science Foundation.
Monaco said Tufts is “deeply concerned” that the White House budget request, with its major reductions in funding for many agencies, would adversely impact research and threaten the future for generations of scientists.