Some USDA researchers reluctant to move cross country

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Some U.S. Department of Agriculture researchers are reluctant to move across the country to the Kansas City area when two research agencies move there.

The USDA announced plans earlier this month to move the Economic Research Service and National Institute of Food and Agriculture closer to farmers and agribusinesses they serve, and many employees have objected to the move from the Washington D.C. area.

USDA researcher Andrew Crane-Droesch tells the Kansas City Star the move is out of the question.

“It’s a mixture of outrage and resignation,” Crane-Droesch said of morale at his office. “Nobody wants to move — nothing against Kansas City.”

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He said he doesn’t want to live far from his aging parents on the East Coast, and his wife has better career options in the Washington area. And the couple is in the middle of adopting.

When officials announced the move to employees of both agencies, employees turned their backs on the Agriculture Secretary.

Critics say 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. Opponents also 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.

USDA officials say the move will save about $20 million a year on rent and other costs, which will provide more money for research.

Losing some employees is expected in this kind of move, said Dan Levine, who advises companies on relocations at Oxford Economics. He said that is why it is more common for companies to open a new office instead of closing one location and moving everyone to a new location.

“Clearly when you move people from D.C. to Kansas City, the first thing you have to worry about is retention,” Levine said. “I would expect a high amount of turnover on a move like that. And that might be something that they can for whatever reason tolerate.”

Kansas City area economic development officials are excited about the prospect of nearly 550 new jobs in the area that will pay between $80,000 and $100,000 a year.

Kansas City Area Development Council CEO Tim Cowden said his group is committed to helping federal employees and their families make the move to Kansas City.

“We understand and empathize with the families and the employees,” Cowden said. “It’s a huge move, it’s a huge transition.”

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