USDA Announces Finalists for its New Agency Locations

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By on May 6, 2019 in Agency News with 0 Comments
Illustration of a moving truck against a solid navy blue background with the words 'we have moved' written on the side as it appears to drive over a map icon

The US Department of Agriculture announced that it has narrowed its selection of new locations for its Economic Research Service (ERS) and National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) agencies down to three regions.

The three areas under consideration are within Indiana, North Carolina and the Kansas City metropolitan area.

StateLocationApplicant(s)
INMultiplePurdue University, Indiana Economic Development Corporation, State of Indiana
KS and MOGreater Kansas City RegionThe Kansas City Area Development Council, The Kansas City Animal Health Corridor
NCResearch Triangle RegionNC Research Triangle, Wake County, Durham County and Research Triangle Park

“This short list of locations took into consideration critical factors required to uphold the important missions of ERS and NIFA. We also considered factors important to our employees, such as quality of life,” USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue said. “Relocation will help ensure USDA is the most effective, most efficient, and most customer-focused agency in the federal government, allowing us to be closer to our stakeholders and move our resources closer to our customers. Our commitment to the public and our employees is to continue to be transparent as we proceed with our analysis.”

While they are not in the top three selections, these are other contenders that remain under consideration should the top three choices ultimately not meet USDA’s needs.

StateLocationApplicant(s)
MOSt. LouisSt. Louis Regional Consortium, St. Louis Economic Development Partnership, State of Missouri, Missouri Department of Agriculture, Missouri Partnership
WIMadisonCity of Madison, the University of Wisconsin–Madison College of Agricultural & Life Sciences (CALS), University of Wisconsin–Madison Office of University Relations, University Research Park, State of Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, and 910 Mayer, LLC

Impact on Agency Employees

According to the latest available employment data from the Office of Personnel Management, there are just over 700 total employees at both impacted agencies (404 at NIFA and 303 at ERS).

USDA has said previously that none of the impacted federal employees at these agencies will be involuntarily separated. The agency will also offer relocation assistance and will provide the same base pay as before along with locality pay for the new location to employees who move. Employees who are interested may be eligible for Voluntary Early Retirement Authority and Voluntary Separation Incentive Payments.

Reasons Behind the Move

USDA said there are three primary reasons it plans to relocate these agencies out of Washginton, DC:

  1. To improve USDA’s ability to attract and retain highly qualified staff with training and interests in agriculture, many of whom come from land-grant universities. USDA has experienced significant turnover in these positions, and it has been difficult to recruit employees to the Washington, DC area, particularly given the high cost of living and long commutes.
  2. To place these important USDA resources closer to many of stakeholders, most of whom live and work far from the Washington, DC area.
  3. To benefit the American taxpayers. There will be significant savings on employment costs and rent, which will allow more employees to be retained in the long run, even in the face of tightening budgets.

“None of this reflects on the jobs being done by our ERS or NIFA employees, and in fact, I frequently tell my Cabinet colleagues that USDA has the best workforce in the federal government,” Perdue said. “These changes are more steps down the path to better service to our customers, and will help us fulfill our informal motto to ‘Do right and feed everyone.’”

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Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of FedSmith.com. He enjoys writing about current topics that affect the federal workforce.

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