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Kansas City selected as new home for two USDA labs: What that means for Missouri

  

A joint bid between Kansas and Missouri has lured two United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) facilities to the Kansas City region, bringing with it hundreds of federal jobs.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced Thursday the Economic Research Service (ERS), a statistical agency, and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), which funds cutting-edge agricultural science, will be moved to Kansas City — but did not specify a location on either the Kansas or Missouri side.

The Kansas City proposal beat out 135 other bids.

“We did not undertake these relocations lightly, and we are doing it to enhance long-term sustainability and success of these agencies,” Perdue said in a statement. “The Kansas City Region has proven itself to be [a] hub for all things agriculture and is a booming city in America’s heartland.”

“Kansas City is the heart of our farm economy and is deservedly the right choice for USDA. Secretary Sonny Perdue has often said customer service is his number one goal at USDA, and there is no better way to show his commitment than having our public servants living where their customers are,” said Missouri Farm Bureau President Blake Hurst.

“This is a move that will mutually benefit the agriculture industry and the agencies – creating a stronger future for American agriculture.”

The relocation has been framed as a way for the department to work closely with farmers, but the plan has received pushback from critics who say the move will hinder collaboration and force long-time employees to uproot their families.

USDA estimates a savings of nearly $300 million over a 15-year lease term on employment costs and rent or about $20 million per year. The department touts the savings as a way to allow more funding for research of critical needs — such as rural prosperity and agricultural competitiveness — and for programs and employees to be retained in the long run, even in the face of tightening budgets.

According to the USDA, state and local governments offered relocation incentives packages totaling more than $26 million.

Every current employee who wants to continue working will have an opportunity to do so, although that will mean moving to a new location for most, a USDA press release stated. Employees will be offered relocation assistance and will receive the same base pay as before, USDA said.

In total, 568 jobs will be relocated to the Kansas City region. 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.

“Missouri agriculture has unrivaled diversity, access to cutting-edge research at our land grant universities, and a thriving agribusiness environment,” Gov. Mike Parson said. “By choosing a location close to their farmer-constituent base, these offices will remain rooted in agriculture and, as a result, will be better able to make decisions that serve American agriculture well.”

“Although moving these two agencies to anywhere in the Midwest would have been beneficial for America’s heartland, we are honored and excited they will now call the Kansas City area home,” Missouri Director of Agriculture Chris Chinn said. “This is a move that will mutually benefit the agriculture industry and the agencies – creating a stronger future for American agriculture.”