The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service and National Institute of Food and Agriculture will relocate to the Kansas City region from the Washington, D.C., area. The other areas that had been considered were North Carolina and Indiana.
“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,” Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said in a news release. “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.”
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. This should allow more funding for research and for programs and employees to be retained in the long run, even in the face of tightening budgets, according to the news release.
On top of that, state and local governments offered generous relocation incentives packages totaling more than $26 million. Finally, this relocation will give USDA the opportunity to attract a diverse staff with training and interest in agriculture.
“ The considerable taxpayer savings will allow us to be more efficient and improve our ability to retain more employees in the long run,” Purdue says. “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.”
The ERS and NIFA, by the numbers
Secretary Perdue sent a letter to all USDA employees June 13 and will be holding an all hands meeting with ERS and NIFA employees to discuss the decision, the process and next steps.
Although 90% of USDA employees are located outside of theWashington, D.C., area, ERS and NIFA are the only USDA agencies that don’t have representation outside of the national capital region (NCR).
Out of NIFA’s 315 positions, 294 will relocate while 21 will stay in the Washington, D.C., area. Of the 329 ERS positions, 253 will relocate while 76 will stay in the Washington, D.C. area.
As a result of this move, no ERS or NIFA employees will be involuntarily separated. Every employee who wants to continue working will have an opportunity to do so, although that will mean moving to a new location for most. Employees will be offered relocation assistance and will receive the same base pay as before, and the locality pay for the new location.
USDA will be working with the General Services Administration to secure a permanent lease space through a competitive process in the Kansas City region.