USDA’s Cross-Country Move Conundrum

Jan 8, 2021

It was controversial then. It is controversial now.

In 2019, you likely remember when two arms of the USDA, the Economic Research Service (ERS) and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), were moved out of Washington, D.C. to Kansas City. The move was largely due to the Trump administration’s policy focuses.

How’d it go? Not great.

The move caused mass resignations, resulting in a loss of staff expertise plus lots of unfinished research projects.

And morale? Well, it’s like playing limbo – it keeps getting lower.

  • The Counter reports ERS has funding for 329 positions. Vacancies topped 200 in early 2020.
  • In mid-August a spokesperson reported 172 staffers, only 52% of a complete department.


Those who remain at the agency say the move “affects their research every day.”

What’s ahead: Biden’s ag agenda has one hot topic – climate change – that ERS & NIFA are intimately familiar with. So he and his Ag Secretary nominee, Tom Vilsack, have some deciding to do. Do they move the teams back to D.C.? Does Kansas City remain home? Will a hybrid approach be the way? Time will tell.