On Thursday, employees of the federal Department of Agriculture, miffed that their jobs were being relocated from Washington D.C. to Kansas City, turned their backs on Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue as he spoke to them at an all-hands meeting.
As CNN reported:
Perdue announced earlier Thursday morning that the Economic Research Service, which provides research and statistical analysis for lawmakers, and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, which allocates federal research funding, will be relocated to Kansas City from Washington, DC, the final announcement in a process that began last year.
In a letter to employees, Perdue stated:
As you all know, we have evaluated 136 expressions of interest from parties in 35 states, based upon objective criteria and mission operational needs, and conducted site visits to three areas – Kansas City, North Carolina, and Indiana. The Kansas City Region takes into account the expectations that employees wanted in a new location.
The Kansas City Region has proven itself to be a hub for all things agriculture and is a booming city in America’s heartland. There is already a significant presence of USDA and federal government employees in the region. Boasting not only a low cost of living, with high-quality, affordable housing, it has an excellent public school system and a community filled with family-oriented activities. The city itself is extremely livable, with access to arts, culture, and a thriving food scene. Our belief is that this relocation will give USDA the opportunity to attract a staff with training and interest in agriculture.
Perdue has stated that the move will save taxpayers roughly $20 million a year. He had asserted, according to Politico, “The Kansas City Region will allow ERS and NIFA to increase efficiencies and effectiveness and bring important resources and manpower closer to all of our customers. This agriculture talent pool, in addition to multiple land-grant and research universities within driving distance, provides access to a stable labor force for the future.” He added that the saved funds would permit more funding for “critical needs like rural prosperity and agricultural competitiveness,” saying that it would also allow the agencies to prosper “even in the face of tightening budgets.” He acknowledged that state and local governments had offered $26 million in incentives.
The employees turned their backs on Perdue as he tried to offer some comfort, saying:
I know that you probably already know that we announced this morning that Kansas City region’s been selected as the new home for ERS and NIFA; and throughout the process I’ve emphasized that this should never be construed in any way, shape fashion, or form as a decision based on the jobs that are being done by our ERS and NIFA employees. In fact, I often publicly and privately brag to our colleagues that USDA have the best workforce in the federal government. So this is a strategic and long-term decision for USDA as an agency.
While this is a strategic and long-term decision for USDA, I know that it’s not so much for you all. I realize that this is a real-time immediate and major change for many of you. I know that your primary concern, as expected, at this moment, is for you and your families, and I absolutely understand that. I know that you’ve been feeling a lot of stress since we announced, I think about ten months ago, our strategic plan to move ERS and NIFA out of the national capital region. I want you to know that this decision was not entered into lightly, and having recently undergone a major relocation of my own, I understand the decision creates personal disruption for some of you as well as your families.