Jun 13, 2019

Trump administration moving hundreds of USDA scientists from D.C. to Kansas City

In this image, Sonny Perdue speaks at a podium.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue at a 2018 forum. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Employees at USDA's Economic Research Service (ERS) and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) intend to move from Washington, D.C. to an unspecified area in the Kansas City region by the end of 2019, the Washington Post reports.

Why it matters: "Employees, congressional Democrats and a bipartisan coalition of former USDA leaders" have warned that the move "would devastate the two agencies," per the Post. ERS and NIFA have both recently unionized and some "union officials have promised to fight the move."

Details: ERS jobs remaining in D.C. mostly belong to "administrative staff, analysts who perform market outlook estimates and those who collect data," according to internal documents reviewed by the Union of Concerned Scientists. Their analysis showed that "[e]conomists and other ERS researchers who make conclusions from that data are likely to be reassigned to Kansas City" — but the USDA disputes that.

Our thought bubble, via Axios' Andrew Freedman: This move is seen by some as having the effect of reducing the influence of USDA's scientists and statisticians, who will be far away from D.C. power brokers.

The bottom line: The USDA expects to save around $300 million over 15 years after relocating.

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