USDA continues restructuring, plans ERS and NIFA move from D.C.
On Aug. 9, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced that the Economic Research Service (ERS), currently under USDA’s Research, Education, and Economics mission area, will realign once again with the Office of the Chief Economist (OCE) under the Office of the Secretary.
Additionally, most employees of ERS and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) will be relocated outside of the National Capital Region. The movement of the employees outside of Washington, D.C., is expected to be completed by the end of 2019.
The USDA is accepting expressions of interest from parties interested in hosting ERS and NIFA until Oct. 15.
In a press release, the USDA cited difficulty in recruiting employees to the Washington, D.C., area because of the high cost of living and long commutes. The department also asserted that important USDA resources should be located closer to farm stakeholders and to save money on employment costs and rent.
Reps. Sanford Bishop (D-Georgia 2nd District) and three other Democratic members of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture wrote to Perdue to to express their concerns with the plan and called on the USDA to provide employee hiring data for ERS and NIFA for the last 5 years, data on anticipated staff loss if ERS and NIFA relocate, estimated costs associated with relocation, data on anticipated costs savings, a detailed timeline for the relocation, and the rationale for why ERS and NIFA, as opposed to other USDA agencies, need to move closer to stakeholders.