Agriculture

Kansas City is a finalist for new USDA facilities and hundreds of federal jobs

The USDA is weighing moving hundreds of jobs to Kansas City to be closer to farmers in the Midwest.
The USDA is weighing moving hundreds of jobs to Kansas City to be closer to farmers in the Midwest. The Kansas City Star

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is considering moving hundreds of federal jobs to the Kansas City region as the department looks to move its research agencies from Washington to the Heartland.

The USDA announced Friday that the Kansas City area is one of three finalists to serve as the new home to the Economic Research Service and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture. The department said it evaluated 136 proposals from 35 states.

Kansas and Missouri submitted a joint proposal for the Kansas City region that has strong backing by lawmakers from both states.

“Moving the offices to Kansas City, in the middle of the country, close to stakeholders, should improve customer service and make efficient use of taxpayer dollars,” said Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, who has large sway over the USDA as the Senate Agriculture chairman.

The relocation could result in as many as 700 federal jobs coming to the Kansas City area.

“Kansas City is home to a highly-skilled workforce as a result of the state’s premier universities, research institutions, agricultural companies, and industry producer groups, and I am thrilled that it’s a finalist ,” said Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kansas.

The National Institute of Food and Agriculture conducts research into food conservation, nutrition and ways to enhance to the nation’s food supply. The Economic Research Service analyzes the farm economy, food safety and global trade among other topics.

Kansas City is already home to more than 2,000 USDA jobs.

The other finalists for the new facilities include proposals from Indiana and North Carolina. The USDA said that two other proposals to move the facilities to St. Louis or Madison, Wisconsin, also remain under consideration despite not making it into the top three.

“This short list of locations took into consideration critical factors required to uphold the important missions of ERS and NIFA. We also considered factors important to our employees, such as quality of life,” Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said in a statement.

“Relocation will help ensure USDA is the most effective, most efficient, and most customer-focused agency in the federal government, allowing us to be closer to our stakeholders and move our resources closer to our customers. Our commitment to the public and our employees is to continue to be transparent as we proceed with our analysis.”

Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Missouri, voiced support for both the Kansas City and St. Louis proposals in a statement.

“Both Kansas City and St. Louis are great places to live and work, and are close to some of the top agricultural research institutions in the country,” Blunt said. “This is an encouraging announcement and I hope USDA will consider all the benefits Missouri brings to the table as the selection process moves forward.”

Bryan Lowry covers Kansas and Missouri politics as Washington correspondent for The Kansas City Star. He previously served as Kansas statehouse correspondent for The Wichita Eagle and as The Star’s lead political reporter. Lowry contributed to The Star’s investigation into government secrecy that was a finalist for The Pulitzer Prize.
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