WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Agriculture on July 16 announced that 145 employees of the Economic Research Service and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture have accepted relocation to the Greater Kansas City area from Washington, D.C. The total accepting relocation equated to about 37% of those eligible. The low acceptance rate presaged what may be a rocky transition for the agencies, particularly in the case of research underway or planned by scientists and analysts of the E.R.S.
A U.S.D.A. spokesperson said 72 E.R.S. employees accepted relocation and 99 declined or did not respond before the July 15 deadline. Seventy-three NIFA employees accepted relocation while 151 declined or did not respond by the deadline.
Relocating employees must report to work at whatever office space is secured for them by Sept. 30. The General Services Administration was reviewing proposals for sites to permanently house the agencies.
The Sept. 30 report-to-work date coincided with the end of the current federal fiscal year. The U.S.D.A. sought to ensure the move was accomplished by that date to ensure Congress would not be able to block the transfer through the agriculture appropriations process for fiscal year 2020.
Some relocating employees may begin work in Kansas City as early as July 22, a department spokesperson said.
Addressing concerns that the capacity of two agencies will be diminished because of the depleted workforce, the spokesperson said, “With employee decisions made, the department will work to promptly implement an aggressive hiring strategy to ensure continuity of work during the transition.”
However many E.R.S. and NIFA employees ultimately move to Greater Kansas City, they will join approximately 1,145 U.S.D.A. employees in the area, according to the department. These include 533 employees in the Farm Production and Conservation section, 388 attached to the Office of the Chief Information Officer and other staff offices, 192 working in the Marketing and Regulatory Programs section, and 32 others.
The spokesperson added that there are a total of 1,677 U.S.D.A. employees in the state of Kansas and 4,124 in the state of Missouri.