Media Coverage

Kansas City selected as location for two major USDA offices


Jun 14, 2019 - Animal Pharm
By Joseph Harvey

Kansas City wooed the agency with its existing infrastructure, close ties to the agricultural industry and its high concentration of animal health companies.

The agency previously cut down a list of 136 candidates from 35 states to three possible destinations for the relocation. When selecting Kansas City, the USDA took into account quality of life, general costs, workforce, logistics and IT infrastructure.

The USDA is aiming to improve its ability to attract and retain highly qualified staff. It has previously suffered a high turnover of employees due to the high cost of living and long commutes to Washington, DC – 90% of USDA employees are located outside of the DC area.

According to a USDA cost-benefit analysis, conservative estimates show selecting Kansas City will result in savings of around $300 million over a 15-year lease term on employment costs and rent – about $20m per year. These savings will allow the USDA to increase funding for research, as well as retain programs and employees – "even in the face of tightening budgets".

"On top of that, state and local governments offered generous relocation incentives packages totaling more than $26m," the agency noted. "Finally, this relocation will give the USDA the opportunity to attract a diverse staff with training and interest in agriculture."

The NIFA has 315 positions – 294 of these will relocate and 21 will stay in the DC region. Of the 329 positions at the ERS, 253 will relocate and 76 will remain in DC.

"Every employee who wants to continue working will have an opportunity to do so, although that will mean moving to a new location for most," the USDA explained. "Employees will be offered relocation assistance and will receive the same base pay as before, and the locality pay for the new location."

The USDA will work with the General Services Administration to secure a permanent lease space in the Kansas City area. It is currently evaluating multiple office properties in Kansas and Missouri for a 120,000-square-foot space, which will house both agencies and 568 employees. This site is expected to be operational this fall.

The ERS aims to "anticipate trends and emerging issues in agriculture, food, the environment and rural America, and to conduct high-quality, objective economic research to inform and enhance public and private decision making". The NIFA provides funding for programs that advance agriculture-related sciences.

Animal health capabilities

The Kansas City area is already home to over 5,000 USDA employees and contractors. The region is the location of more than a dozen USDA agency operations and 150 federal agencies. It also has proximity to 13 land grant universities including Kansas State University and the University of Missouri – more than any other region.

Additionally, it features the Kansas City Animal Health Corridor – incorporating 300 companies that represent 56% of total worldwide animal health, veterinary diagnostics and pet food sales.

"Because of Kansas City's 100-plus-year legacy of leadership in the agriculture and animal health industries, this decision feels like a homecoming for the USDA," said Tim Cowden, who is president and chief executive of the Kansas City Area Development Council.

By 2022-2023, the Kansas City region will also be home to the National Bio and Agro-defense Facility – a biosafety level-4 laboratory that is being relocated from the aging Plum Island Animal Disease Center in New York. It will be located at Kansas State University's Manhattan campus.

Perdue highlights sustainability

US secretary of agriculture Sonny Perdue commented: "The Kansas City Region provides a win-win – maximizing our mission function by putting taxpayer savings into programmatic outputs and providing affordability, easy commutes and extraordinary living for our employees.

"The Kansas City region has proven itself to be hub for all things agriculture and is a booming city in America's heartland. There is already a significant presence of USDA and federal government employees in the region, including the Kansas City 'Ag Bank' Federal Reserve. This agriculture talent pool, in addition to multiple land-grant and research universities within driving distance, provides access to a stable labor force for the future.

"The Kansas City Region will allow ERS and NIFA to increase efficiencies and effectiveness and bring important resources and manpower closer to all of our customers.

"We did not undertake these relocations lightly, and we are doing it to enhance long-term sustainability and success of these agencies."

Reprinted with permission of Animal Pharm News

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