The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced June 13 it will relocate more than 500 employees of the Economic Research Service (ERS) and National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) to the Kansas City region.
USDA said it conducted a cost-benefit analysis showing a savings of nearly $300 million nominally over a 15-year lease term on employment costs and rent, or about $20 million per year. In addition, state and local governments offered relocation incentive packages totaling more than $26 million, USDA said. USDA had announced on May 3 the finalists for new ERS and NIFA locations, which also included Indiana and North Carolina’s Research Triangle area.
In response to the relocation, NIFA employees voted 137-2 on June 11 to form a union with the American Federation of Government Employees. ERS employees voted to unionize on May 9.
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue sent a letter regarding the move to all USDA employees the morning of June 13. “I want you all to know that this decision was not entered into lightly,” the letter says. “…I want to make sure that this transition and the coming months are as smooth and as minimally disruptive as possible.”
House appropriators included language in a fiscal 2020 agriculture spending bill that would prohibit USDA from moving the agencies outside of the capital region. The full House Appropriations Committee approved the bill on June 4 and it will be considered on the House floor next week.