Kansas City Region Selected as New Home for USDA Research Agencies

In this June 15, 2018 photo, winter wheat is harvested in a field farmed by Dalton and Carson North near McCracken, Kan.

In this June 15, 2018 photo, winter wheat is harvested in a field farmed by Dalton and Carson North near McCracken, Kan. Charlie Riedel/AP Photo

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The move is expected to bring 550 jobs to the Kansas City region. Officials have not decided whether the USDA facility will be located in Missouri or Kansas.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Thursday it will relocate two research agencies from the nation’s capital to the Kansas City region, a move expected to bring 550 jobs to the area and save taxpayers about $20 million a year.

The contentious move was supported by Kansas and Missouri lawmakers, but opposed by some current employees and Democratic lawmakers who believe it will isolate the agencies from collaborative partners in Washington, D.C.

Relocating the National Institute of Food and Agriculture and the Economic Research Service to middle America will place the agencies closer to agricultural “stakeholders,” Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said.

“The Kansas City Region has proven itself to be a hub for all things agriculture and is a booming city in America’s heartland,” Perdue said Thursday.

The National Institute of Food and Agriculture funds agriculture research and the Economic Research Service is a statistical agency that conducts research for USDA.

More than 4,000 USDA employees already work in the Kansas City region and Perdue said moving the agencies there would increase the department’s ability to attract “highly-qualified staff with training and interests in agriculture, many of whom come from land-grant universities.”

The Kansas City region beat out 135 other bids to become the new home of the agricultural research agencies. A USDA analysis estimates the department can save approximately $300 million over a 15-year lease term on employment costs and rent through the relocation.

The USDA has not selected the location of the 120,000-square foot facility that will house the two agencies. But Kansas Governor Laura Kelly said a decision about whether the site will be located in Kansas or Missouri was expected in July.

“While we’ll work hard to make sure the final location is on our side of the river, we know the new location on either side will meet the needs of the USDA and benefit Kansas and Missouri,” said Kelly, a Democrat.

Lawmakers from the two states made a joint bid for the USDA relocation, a departure from the competition over jobs displayed by the two states in the past. The USDA’s announcement comes a day after Missouri Governor Mike Parson, a Republican, signed an economic border war truce meant to end job poaching across the state line.

While regional lawmakers cheered the news, other members of Congress still hope to block the move.

Some Democrats in the Senate have announced plans to try to block the relocation through legislation. Meanwhile, employees of the two agencies have both voted to unionize in recent weeks.

Kansas City Star reporter Bryan Lowry reported that employees of the agencies turned their backs on Perdue as he spoke at USDA headquarters Thursday.

Andrea Noble is a staff correspondent for Route Fifty.

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