The US Department of Agriculture announced today its plans to relocate two of its agencies to the Kansas City area.
“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,” said USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue. “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 Kansas City area had previously been announced as one of the finalists for the relocation of the Economic Research Service (ERS) and National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). Other areas that had been in the final running were Indiana, North Carolina, and Wisconsin.
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 the agency says 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.
State and local governments also offered relocation incentives packages totaling more than $26 million to the agency. USDA also said that the relocation will give the agency the opportunity to attract a diverse staff with training and interest in agriculture.
Impact on Agency Employees
Secretary Purdue sent a letter to all agency employees about the relocation and will be holding an all hands meeting with ERS and NIFA employees today to discuss the decision, the process, and next steps.
Previous reports suggested that some employees were not happy with the prospect of moving out of the DC region and that some employees had left the agency in advance of the move.
Out of NIFA’s 315 positions, 294 will relocate while 21 will stay in the national capital region. 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. USDA said that 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. Under the General Schedule, the locality percentage in 2019 for the Kansas City area is 16.60%.
USDA will be working with the General Services Administration to secure a permanent lease space through a competitive process in the Kansas City Region. USDA will continue to keep ERS and NIFA employees apprised as updates occur.