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Home / US / USDA's plan to relocate research agencies to the Midwest leads to a brain drain

USDA's plan to relocate research agencies to the Midwest leads to a brain drain



Two critical federal research agencies are gutted after workers are called to move from Washington to the Midwest.

As of Monday, new and relocating employees may be temporarily reported to offices in the Kansas City region, the US Department of Agriculture, said. More than half of the staff of the Economic Research Service and the National Institute for Food and Agriculture, however, refused to relocate or even respond to transfer orders, leading to a brain drain.

The move was announced in June by USDA secretary Sonny Perdue. to beat more than 1

00 other suggestions. The USDA did not specify which state the new headquarters would be in, but said that a cost-benefit analysis over a 15-year period resulted in savings of $ 300 million that will help drive more research to fund researchers to bring closer to agricultural stakeholders and save taxpayers dollars. Perdue added that state and local governments offered "generous resettlement incentive packages" totaling over $ 26 million. The governors of Kansas and Missouri refused to provide the incentives.

The move takes place at the expense of the existing talents. A total of 72 ERS workers agreed to relocate to Kansas City while 99 refused, the USDA said last week. For the NIFA, 73 were accepted and 151 rejected. (The number of retired workers included never responded to relocation requests.) Nearly 100 jobs for both agencies remain in the D.C. region. According to the USDA, 91% of the over 100,000 employees are outside Washington.

President Donald Trump (left) welcomes Sonny Perdue, US Secretary of Agriculture, on the stage of the 100th American Farm Bureau Federation Convention in New Orleans, Louisiana (USA), on Monday, January 14, 2019.

Kathleen Flynn | Bloomberg | Getty Images

"These figures are projected to fluctuate until September 30, the date for the relocation of employees to Kansas City, as employees are free to change their status by this date change, "said a USDA spokesman. "These expected areas have been included in the division's long-term strategy, which includes both efforts to ensure that employees have the resources they need and efforts to implement an aggressive recruitment strategy to maintain the continuity of ERS and NIFA work." [19659008] Pushback on relocation

The move was criticized by congressional democrats, watchdog groups and unions who complained about workers' short decision-making time. Others emphasized that separating scientists from other Washington staff would hamper their ability to work and research on a range of topics. They have also led the brain drain of the agency, as experienced workers refuse relocation.

"This is not a choice between Kansas City and Washington, D.C.," said Kevin Hunt, acting vice president of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 3403 and a 10-year USDA employee. Hunt works in the emergency room and said that although he's from Missouri, he refused to relocate. "We are asked to move to be closer to the stakeholders, but we are a national policy-driven agency, it is about people's lives and the time we have."

Others disagreed with the idea of ​​the USDA conducting a relocation contest. Greg LeRoy, executive director of Good Jobs First, a monitoring group that promotes accountability for economic development, recalls Amazon's nationwide search for its second headquarters.

"This is Uncle Sam imitating Jeff Bezos," LeRoy said. "Apart from being federally funded taxpayer jobs, the people of Kansas and Missouri are already paying federal taxes, so why give the USDA a handout because the Agriculture Minister wants to relocate some jobs there?"

Border War

Outside the Beltway, state and local officials in the Kansas City area have welcomed the move. The resettlement is taking place as Kansas and Missouri attempt to end the economic border war that has long plagued the two states – something former governors could not. Research by the Hall Family Foundation has revealed that around $ 335 million has been spent by both states over the last decade to lure businesses across the border. The joint proposal to accommodate the USDA was presented separately by the state as part of a regional bid.

Missouri Republican Governor Michael Parson has just signed a bill that would no longer provide incentives for companies to cross state borders for jobs and Democratic government. Kelly's Laura Kelly has agreed to do the same. Both governors told CNBC that landing the jobs would be a benefit to their respective states, but no matter where they land, the Kansas City region benefits.

"I think you're trying to sell your state every day and I'm sure the governor of Kansas is also trying to sell her state there – it's always competitive and that's a good thing," Parson said , "But at the end of the day, I want to emphasize, it's a win for both states."

Kelly agreed.

"It would clearly be a tremendous economic boost for us to create 500 new, well-paid jobs and attract some of the best and brightest agricultural researchers from across the country – this would do wonders not only for our communities, but for the state as a whole, "said Kelly. "But honestly, no matter which side they're on, it works for the Kansas City and Kansas subways."

Critics with incentive package issues felt it was important to keep an eye on the push for profitability.

"With these packages you always have to look 10 or 20 years later – the effect of 500 well-paid jobs coming to the region – that will benefit the economy," he said.

Lori Ann LaRocco of CNBC contributed to this report.


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