The Department of Agriculture says fewer than 40 percent of the researchers whose jobs are being transferred from Washington, D.C., to Kansas City will make the move to the Midwest.
The Kansas City Star reports that U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced in June that the USDA would move more than 550 jobs in two research agencies to Kansas City. A USDA spokesperson told The Star Tuesday that 145 workers will follow their jobs to Kansas City, while 250 will leave the agency, meaning about 37 percent accepted the transfers.
The USDA says the figures may fluctuate. Employees can change their decision until they are expected to report to Kansas City on Sept. 30.
Members of the Kansas and Missouri congressional delegations and the states’ governors praised the USDA’s move when it was announced, saying the agencies are a good fit for the region. But critics argued that moving them will make it harder for federal policymakers to get objective research that might raise questions about President Donald Trump’s policies.
It’s not yet clear whether the researchers will work in Kansas or Missouri. Economic development officials from both states worked to lure the jobs and cities in both states are working to land the USDA offices.
Perdue said that moving most employees out of Washington would bring the Economic Research Service and National Institute of Food and Agriculture closer to farmers and agribusinesses they serve. He also said the USDA would save about $20 million a year on rent and other employee costs, freeing up extra dollars for research.
Critics said the research agencies have lost veteran employees and been unable to fill vacancies since the USDA announced last year it was considering moving their headquarters.
The American Federation of Government Employees, which represents workers at the two research agencies, opposed the plan. Employees at both recently unionized.
The Economic Research Service examines a wide range of issues, including the rural economy, international trade, food safety and programs that provide food assistance to poor Americans. The National Institute of Food and Agriculture provides grants for agricultural research.