When Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced Kansas City as the new home for two USDA research agencies, officials laid out an aggressive schedule to have everyone in place by Sept. 30, the final day of fiscal 2019. But the USDA has hired only a comparative handful of workers to stanch staff turnover that could exceed 75 percent.
The Economic Research Service (ERS) analyzes food, natural resources, rural development and agricultural issues, including USDA programs. The National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA) awards more than $1 billion a year in competitive research grants.
By moving the agencies out of Washington, Perdue says the USDA will save money on rent and salaries, have an easier time recruiting analysts from college towns, and put USDA employees closer to “stakeholders.” Opponents say the justifications don’t hold water. Groups such as the Union of Concerned Scientists point to repeated administration proposals to slash ERS funding and see an ongoing attempt to gut the agencies.
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