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USDA To Move 2 Agencies Out Of D.C. Region

The Waterfront Centre office building at 800 Ninth St. SW, occupied by the USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture

The U.S. Department of Agriculture plans to relocate over 500 jobs from D.C. to the Kansas City area, a move that has quickly sparked backlash from government employees. 

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced Thursday the department will relocate the Economic Research Service and National Institute of Food and Agriculture to the Kansas City region. 

NIFA will relocate 294 of its 315 positions out of the D.C. region, while ERS will relocate 253 of its 329 positions, the announcement said. USDA in August first signaled that it planned to relocate the agencies, before having decided on a landing spot. 

Thursday's announcement did not detail the fate of the D.C. office space the agencies occupy. NIFA leases 126K SF at 800 Ninth St. SW, a building owned by Guardian Realty in a lease set to expire next year. ERS occupies a portion of the USDA's 330K SF space at 355 E St. SW, part of the Patriots Plaza complex owned by Multi-Employer Property Trust

Employees of the two agencies stood and turned their backs on Perdue during a meeting Thursday, a silent protest of the decision, CNN reports. The American Federation of Government Employees released a statement saying the move is an attempt to undermine the agencies' scientific work and will make it harder to coordinate with other science and research agencies. 

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D.C.'s sole congressional representative, said she included a provision in the fiscal year 2020 Agriculture Appropriations bill to block the move. The bill has passed through the Appropriations Committee, but Norton said Thursday's announcement is an attempt to circumvent the legislation. 

"The USDA, in defiance of Congress, is pushing forward without the requisite legal authority to move these agencies, and following the Appropriations Committee’s decision to block this move in fiscal year 2020," Norton said in a statement. "USDA is trying to accomplish this move before the 2020 fiscal year begins, when they would be restricted from doing so. USDA has not done the required analysis of the costs and benefits, and the Inspector General review of the proposal with a proper cost-benefit analysis is not yet complete. I believe we can still keep this move from occurring."