In this file:


·         Guebert: There’s always Kansas City

·         John Phipps: Is the ERS Move to Kansas City a Smart Decision?

·         USDA selects permanent site in Kansas City



Guebert: There’s always Kansas City


Alan Guebert, Farm & Food File, Agrinews

Oct 8, 2019


The internal memo only confirmed what unofficial Washington had been saying for more than a year and what official Washington had been downplaying for even longer: The White House plan to move two U.S. Department of Agriculture agencies to Kansas City will severely cripple USDA data collection, handcuff policymakers who depend on the data and analysis and gut both agencies for years to come.


The move, which became reality on Sept. 30, was proposed by USDA boss Sonny Perdue a year ago as, he repeatedly explained, a cost-saving way to both streamline government and put USDA agencies “closer to our customers.”


The explanation, like the move itself, never made sense. The main customers of one of the agencies to be moved, the Economic Research Service, or ERS, are ag policymakers on Capitol Hill just four museums, two statues and one reflecting pool east of USDA’s office.


The key customers of the other agency Perdue targeted, the National Institute for Food and Agriculture, or NIFA, are land-grant universities and government, private and non-profit research institutions literally scattered across congressional districts from sea to shining sea.


The leaked memo, drafted by USDA “department management for planning purposes,” reported Politico Sept. 24, proved the emptiness of Perdue’s words. The “mass attrition” at ERS alone, noted Politico, “will lead to ‘significant delays’ in vital research reports.”


That’s a setback, not an improvement, in customer service, Mr. Secretary. Read the memo at


Moreover, Politico continued, the memo “outlines how widely the agency’s work will be paralyzed as a result of the relocation.”


Paralyzed is too mild a word for what will happen to ERS from now through December. “USDA identified 38 specific reports that may be delayed because staff members” — who were either unable or unwilling to move from Washington to Kansas City by Sept. 30 — “have departed.”


Laura Dodson, an ERS staff researcher who will remain in Washington, said she would be surprised if that number doesn’t rise.


“You walk into the building,” Dodson noted in an Oct. 1 interview, “and only one desk out of every 10 seems to have anyone at it. No one is here to finish anything.”


Dodson knows the exact number of employees ERS has lost to Perdue’s “customer” purge because she also serves as acting vice president of the local federal government employee union that represents ERS employees.


“By my latest estimate,” she reports, “16 people have moved to Kansas City, 24 will remain in DC until they must either quit or move by Dec. 9 and 141 have quit since June 15.”


That means of ERS’s 181 employees on June 15, 9% have moved to Kansas City, 13% temporarily remain in Washington and 78% have quit.


That’s a staggering loss of unique talent that, Dodson reckons, could not be recaptured in at least a decade even if Perdue reversed course today...





John Phipps: Is the ERS Move to Kansas City a Smart Decision?


by John Phipps, Opinion, AgWeb

Nov 05, 2019


A few weeks ago, I spoke about the USDA relocating the ERS – Economic Research Service – and NIFA - the National Institute of Food and Agriculture – from Washington DC to Kansas City. Virginia Rogers in Pawnee County, Oklahoma applauds the move:


“Three Oklahoma entities submitted a bid for consideration:  the George Kaiser Foundation, Tulsa; Oklahoma State University & Payne County; and Pawnee County Economic Development Foundation—all located in north/north central Oklahoma. Although an Oklahoma site was not selected, we all believed our state had great potential and opportunity.


In any regard, I believe the move out of the DC area is a great idea and more USDA moves should be considered.”


Thanks for writing. Enough time has passed to give some idea how disruptive this move will be not just to the ERS employees but the agency. The turnover will be enormous, with fewer than 30 percent choosing to move. In my opinion, the output from the agencies will suffer for years, as longstanding research loses the human continuity that can be crucial. On the other hand, I have on several occasions noted that the ERS is not particularly timely, often assembling reports years later than would have occurred in private industry. Nor is the nature of the agencies’ work is location-dependent, as is the case for hi-tech hubs, for example. The complaint that this relocation is a purge of researchers who disagree with the administration may have some validity, but it is in the longer term irrelevant. If the new researchers are driven by ideology, the work will rightly be dismissed as flawed, and the reports dismissed. What is far more likely is after a difficult transition, economists looking at the same data will arrive at similar conclusions as their predecessors would have...





USDA selects permanent site in Kansas City

New location is in downtown Kansas City, Missouri.


Source: USDA and Kansas and Missouri congressional delegations, Missouri Farm Bureau

via BEEF Magazine - Nov 04, 2019


USDA has selected 805 Pennsylvania Avenue in downtown Kansas City, Mo., as the site for the Economic Research Service and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture office.


“We’re excited to announce ERS and NIFA’s new, permanent home in downtown Kansas City, Missouri, and provide clarity on commute times and work-life balance for our employees,” said Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. “Both agencies have been hard at work in the Beacon Center after relocating to the region over a month ago, and signing this lease is an important next step to facilitate their long-term efficiency, effectiveness, and service to our customers.”


Perdue announced the two agencies would be relocated to Kansas City in June. Kansas City was selected from a field of 136 from 35 states who submitted bids to host the offices. Perdue announced the relocation of the offices in August 2018.


Lawmakers from Kansas and Missouri praised the relocation, which has been controversial since it was announced.


“I’ve long advocated that USDA’s ERS and NIFA relocate to the Kansas City metropolitan area, knowing that regardless of what side of the border these facilities would land, it would be a positive development for the regional economy and so many institutions across Kansas and Missouri,” said Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kansas.


“I’m pleased to join the Kansas and Missouri delegations in welcoming these USDA facilities to the Kansas City Metro,” said Rep. Sharice Davids, D-Kansas. “Regardless of which side of the state line these facilities fall on, this move benefits our region as a whole, and positions these facilities closer to the people they serve. It also benefits the USDA, as our region has a wealth of institutional knowledge about the critical issues and opportunities facing our agricultural community.”


“Bringing these two important ag research agencies closer to the people they serve and the leading research institutions that support their mission is the right move,” said Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Missouri...


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