U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced that the USDA will relocate the Economic Research Service and National Institute of Food and Agriculture to the Kansas City region.
“Following a rigorous site selection process, the Kansas City Region provides a win-win — maximizing our mission function by putting taxpayer savings into programmatic outputs and providing affordability, easy commutes, and extraordinary living for our employees,” Perdue said. “The Kansas City Region has proven itself to be hub for all things agriculture and is a booming city in America’s heartland. There is already a significant presence of USDA and federal government employees in the region, including the Kansas City ‘Ag Bank’ Federal Reserve. This agriculture talent pool, in addition to multiple land-grant and research universities within driving distance, provides access to a stable labor force for the future. The Kansas City Region will allow ERS and NIFA to increase efficiencies and effectiveness and bring important resources and manpower closer to all of our customers.”
The USDA conducted a Cost Benefit Analysis and conservative estimates show a savings of nearly $300 million nominally over a 15-year lease term on employment costs and rent or about $20 million per year, which will allow more funding for research of critical needs like rural prosperity and agricultural competitiveness, and for programs and employees to be retained in the long run, even in the face of tightening budgets. On top of that, state and local governments offered generous relocation incentives packages totaling more than $26 million. Finally, this relocation will give the USDA the opportunity to attract a diverse staff with training and interest in agriculture. You may click here to view USDA’s Cost Benefit Analysis.
“We did not undertake these relocations lightly, and we are doing it to enhance long-term sustainability and success of these agencies. The considerable taxpayer savings will allow us to be more efficient and improve our ability to retain more employees in the long run. We will be placing important USDA resources closer to many stakeholders, most of whom live and work far from Washington, D.C. In addition, we are increasing the probability of attracting highly-qualified staff with training and interests in agriculture, many of whom come from land-grant universities,’” Perdue added.
However, not everyone is happy with the new move.
National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition issued the following comment: “We are shocked and dismayed that USDA has from the beginning refused to go through the proper channels — including the solicitation of public comment and adhering to the directives of Congress — for such a significant and disruptive change as relocating essential government research agencies,” said Juli Obudzinski, NSAC Interim Policy Director.
Obudzinski continued, “Despite claims that this relocation will better serve American agriculture, the truth is that USDA’s decision has led to a mass exodus of highly trained experts from both ERS and NIFA.”
Perdue sent this letter to all USDA employees this morning and will be holding an all hands meeting with ERS and NIFA employees today to discuss the decision, the process, and next steps.