Countering criticism from some organizations about plans to move USDA's Economic Research Service and National Institute of Food and Agriculture, USDA stated Monday the department had received 136 expressions of interest from 35 states to become the new homes for the agencies.
USDA plans to move the agencies out of Washington, D.C.., by the end of 2019. After extending a deadline to Oct. 15, USDA got significant interest from groups, officials and universities in 35 states showed interest, but those not listed included Alaska, Connecticut, Hawaii, Idaho, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont.
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue expressed great enthusiasm for the show of interest. He said USDA would be working with Ernst & Young to examine the proposals and select new locations for the agencies.
“The interest from across the country has been overwhelming as localities, universities, private entities, and elected officials realize the potential for their communities in become the new home for these two agencies,” Perdue said. “It is an old saying that not all wisdom resides in Washington, D.C., but it is gratifying to see so many folks step forward wanting to prove that to be the case."
The range of groups seeking to bring in the agencies included universities, non-profits, state and local economic development agencies, city officials, as well as governors, members of Congress and farm organizations. USDA stated it's possible the two agencies will be co-located and "a yet-to-be-determined amount of staff" from the two agencies will remain in the Washington area.
USDA states the move "will place important USDA resources closer to many stakeholders, most of whom live and work far from the Washington, D.C., area." Along with that, USDA expects moving the agencies out of Washington will help attractive and retain employees from land-grant universities. Further, USDA states there will be "significant savings on employment costs and rent" to taxpayers.
So the ERS/NIFA move could help bring down that $779 billion federal deficit for FY 2018, though the relocation proposal and its cost savings have not been scored.
USDA notes no agency staff will be terminated, though most will have to follow the agency moves to new locations to keep their jobs.
Groups such as the American Statistical Association, the National Farmers Union and National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition have all written USDA and members of Congress to oppose the moves. More than 100 organizations joined a letter in early September opposing the agency moves as well. Late last month House Democratic leadership wrote USDA Office of Inspector General asking for an investigation into USDA's relocation plans.
The full list of proposed communities and groups that expressed interest in housing the agencies can be found at the bottom of the news release: https://content.govdelivery.com/…
Chris Clayton can be reached at Chris.Clayton@dtn.com
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