The U.S. Department of Agriculture is planning to relocate two of its research agencies from Washington to Kansas City, a loss of 547 jobs.
The USDA said rents are lower in Kansas City, employees will have shorter commutes and a more “affordable” standard of living. But DC-area members of Congress are fuming over the announcement.
Not everyone is buying that idea.
“USDA’s proposed relocation of the Economic Research Service and National Institute of Food and Agriculture will unnecessarily uproot hundreds of dedicated federal employees and could negatively impact the missions of both agencies,” Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner (D-Va.) said.
“These agencies play a critical role in setting agricultural, nutritional, and environmental policy in the U.S. Disconnecting them from other vital research agencies in the National Capital Region will undoubtedly disrupt the work they carry out and impact their ability to attract and retain highly-qualified personnel,” they said, noting they have introduced legislation to “block this ill-conceived move.”
Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) also condemned the plan, saying the “Trump administration is toying with the lives of hardworking civil servants.
“This announcement is part of an unfortunate and entrenched pattern of disrespect for the expertise, well-being, stability and productivity of our federal workforce, especially in the National Capital Region,” Beyer said.
Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said the “relocation will prove to be not only disruptive to the important work being done by both agencies on behalf of the American people, but harmful to the morale of our federal civilian workforce.
“It is alarming that the Administration is rushing ahead with this relocation in order to circumvent Congress. I will continue to explore all options to reverse this decision,” Hoyer said.
Both of the affected agencies are located in DC. ERS is based at 1400 Independence Ave. SW, a federally owned building, and NIFA is in leased space at 800 Ninth St. SW.
The USDA said every employee who wishes to continue working will have the opportunity to do so and be offered relocation assistance. Employees will receive the same previous base pay, and the locality pay for the new location.
The USDA said it conducted a cost-benefit analysis that showed savings of nearly $300 million across a 15-year lease term on employment costs and rent, or about $20 million a year.