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USDA names finalist communities for agency relocation

Washington - U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue on May 3 announced the finalists vying to become the new homes of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service and National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

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Farmers and lawmakers are looking at changes in the 2018 farm bill administered by USDA. Michelle Rook / Special to Agweek

Washington – U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue on May 3 announced the finalists vying to become the new homes of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service and National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

The finalists are in Indiana, the greater Kansas City area and the North Carolina research triangle.

Perdue announced in August 2018 that most ERS and NIFA personnel would be moved out of Washington. The USDA has claimed moving the agencies would put resources closer to stakeholders, provide cost savings and improve recruitment and retention. Critics of the plan say the move will threaten scientific integrity by separating research from policymaking and will lead to a loss of highly skilled and experienced employees.

According to USDA, the finalists were determined by assessing quality of life, costs, workforce and logistics and IT infrastructure in the communities under consideration.

While the finalist locations are in Indiana, Kansas City and North Carolina, the USDA also named St. Louis and Wisconsin locations as alternates.

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The American Statistical Association has been among the groups against USDA’s plans to move the two agencies out of Washington.

“Any gains that USDA asserts will result from relocating ERS and NIFA away from our nation’s research, food and agricultural policymaking are overwhelmingly outweighed by the detrimental impacts,” stated Ron Wasserstein, executive director of the American Statistical Association.  “Further, USDA has neither made a compelling case for such an upheaval nor listened to their own stakeholders, experts and leaders. Adding insult to injury, they have bypassed the 155-year partnership with land grant universities and Congress that has been a hallmark in determining American agricultural and food research policy.”

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