Moving the Economic Research Service and National Institute of Food and Agriculture to Kansas City from Washington, D.C., allows Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to remake the agency.
The ERS, which has funding to support 329 employees, has 214 vacant positions, leaving only 115 positions filled. NIFA has funding for 336 positions and 72 are filled, leaving 264 vacant positions, according to Politico.
Perdue announced relocation plan in August 2018. It has been controversial from the start with Democratic lawmakers trying to find a way to stop the move. After competitive search, Kansas City region was chosen as the new home of the agencies.
Perdue claims the move will save $20 million a year and bring the agencies closer to customers, however the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association says the move will cost taxpayers $37 million to $128 million.
The move has cost the agency in talent. As of the end of September, three-quarters of the staff at the Economic Research Service retired, quit, were terminated or plan to leave by year-end.
Sen. Debbie Stabenow, ranking member on the Senate Agriculture Committee, said the lack of staff is affecting Farm Bill implementation.
USDA Deputy Undersecretary for Research Scott Hutchins says the move to Kansas City is complete and hiring is underway, Missourinet reports. “While it’s true that we have lost some excellent talent in both of those agencies, we have every confidence that we’ll be able to replace that.”
How many employees will be replaced remains to be seen, as Mick Mulvaney said moving the ERS and NIFA to Kansas City was a “wonderful way” to shrink the federal government.