USDA to publish notice to relocate 600 ERS, NIFA employees
August 14, 2018
The Trump administration is wasting no time with its plans announced last week to move most of the staff of the Agriculture Department's Economic Research Service and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture out of Washington.
The Agriculture Department announced today that it will publish a Federal Register notice Wednesday requesting "expressions of interest" for the relocation of ERS and NIFA.
The numbers in the notice indicate a massive shift of government employees out of Washington.
The notice says, "The need for a proposed NIFA facility would be approximately 90,000 square feet to house approximately 360 employees. The need for a proposed ERS facility would be up to 70,000 square feet to house up to 260 employees."
The notice notes that both the ERS and the NIFA are now housed in space rented from the General Services Administration, and that the lease for the NFIA offices is expiring.
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said in a news release last week that USDA would pay relocation expenses, but that the department had also asked the Office of Management and Budget for authority to engage in a program of early retirement.
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Perdue said that the agencies have had a hard time recruiting staff, especially graduates of land-grant colleges. But Sonny Ramaswamy, the former director of NIFA, disputed that statement, saying that in his last year and a half in that job agency officials stopped him from recruiting employees. On the rare occasions that he was allowed to advertise positions, Ramaswamy said he had plenty of applicants.
USDA is requesting input from state and local governments, industry, academia, interested parties and organizations on potential locations that would accommodate "the construction and/or lease and operation of a NIFA and/or ERS headquarters facilities," the notice says.
Noting that this "includes a significant opportunity to improve economic conditions and create employment opportunities" in a community, the requirements include "being located within a reasonable distance of a commercial primary airport, and "in close proximity to a critical mass of intellectual capacity and potential employees to continue the high value and productive work of NIFA and ERS."
The notice acknowledges that Washington, D.C. area "has many positive attributes" but says "it routinely ranks as having some of the longest commute times and one of the highest costs of living in the nation."
"USDA wants to locate the NIFA and ERS headquarters in a community where our employees will enjoy living, recreational opportunities, educational opportunities, and an overall high quality of life."
The Federal Register notice is signed by Deputy Assistant Secretary for Administration Donald Bice.