Local Bipartisan Congressional Delegation Pushes to Move USDA Agencies to Kansas City
HARRISONVILLE, MO – In response to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) recent announcement that it will move its Economic Research Service (ERS) and National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) out of Washington, D.C., local U.S. Representatives Vicky Hartzler, Emanuel Cleaver and Sam Graves are urging USDA to consider Kansas City as a landing spot for possibly hundreds of well-paying federal jobs.
“While there are many potential relocation options, we believe Kansas City provides the perfect balance between the various needs of the USDA,” wrote Hartzler, Cleaver, and Graves to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue. “With the department’s Risk Management Agency and the Food Safety Administration already located in the Kansas City area, USDA understands the importance of having its core functions outside of the Washington Metro area and the unique benefits of operating in the Kansas City region,” added the lawmakers.
The USDA’s intention to relocate these agencies is part of an effort to attract a wide range of talent from every part of the country. The traffic, cost of living and other challenges in Washington has been an impediment to these efforts. The department has also noted a need to place some agencies closer to the stakeholders who work with them – a criteria that Washington, D.C. does not meet. The department further noted significant savings on employment costs and rent in other parts of the country, which will allow more employees to be retained in the long run, even in the face of tightening budgets.
The lawmakers noted in their letter their appreciation for USDA’s continued commitment to ensuring its high-quality employees are treated fairly with serious consideration of their past commitment to the USDA and the needs of their families.
The bipartisan effort by Hartzler, Cleaver, and Graves to relocate these USDA agencies to Kansas City outlines five distinct benefits of planting the agencies in the region:
- Available Workforce - Within 300 miles of Kansas City is located six of the premiere 1862 land-grant institutions, three 1880 institutions, and three 1994 institutions from which to attract future talent in the agricultural sciences as well as many non-land grant colleges of agriculture. No one location in the United States offers similar cluster of land-grant access and diversity.
- Agency Operating Costs – Cost of rent, utilities, and salary expenses in the KC area would be significantly lower with a 12% decrease in locality pay premiums on the GS scale and 17% lower retail electricity costs when compared to the DC area to name a few.
- Quality of Life – Kansas City boasts a vibrant history and culture steeped in agriculture and industry. US News ranks Kansas City in the top 50% of cities as the best places to live, with Kansas City scoring highest in “value”. With a mix of urban, suburban, and rural options, USDA employees would have a range of affordable housing options.
- Transportation/Logistics – Kansas City built its reputation on being a transportation hub and is easily accessible by land, air, or water. With major highways converging in KC including I-29, I-35, I-49, and I-70 and an international airport hub, KC is easily accessible without the major congestion disruptions that plague commuters in major metropolises like DC.
- Central Location in the Heart of America – According to data from the 2010 Census, the population center for the U.S. is Plato, Missouri. The Kansas City location allows for the study of the agriculture economy and rural lifestyles from the geographical and population center of the country, while accounting for the rural-urban interface. With USDAs continued focus on customer service, it makes perfect sense to relocate ERS/NIFA closer to the farmers and ranchers they serve.
“This is just the beginning of a coordinated effort to highlight the obvious benefits the Kansas City region offers the USDA as it looks to relocate these agencies,” said Hartzler, Cleaver, and Graves. The delegation plans to work with local stakeholders to provide hard data and information for the USDA to make their final relocation decision.
The Economic Research Service (ERS) is a component of the USDA whose mission is to anticipate trends and emerging issues in agriculture, food, the environment and rural America. The National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) is a separate component of the USDA that invests in initiatives that ensure the long-term viability of agriculture.