US Agriculture Department Will Move Two DC-Based Agencies Outside of Region

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The Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that it will relocate two of its Washington, D.C.-based sub-agencies outside of the region in order to “improve customer service, strengthen offices and programs and save taxpayer dollars,” according to a press release from the department. Officials said they have also had trouble recruiting and retaining employees in the D.C. area.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said in a prepared statement that the department plans to relocate most employees of the Economic Research Service (ERS) and National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) divisions by the end of 2019. The move will impact approximately 700 employees, according to a UDSA spokesperson.

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ERS, whose employees study and anticipate trends and emerging issues, is located at 355 E. Street SW. NIFA, which provides leadership and funding for agriculture-related programs, is located at 800 Ninth Street SW. Both offices are a few blocks south of the National Mall.

“In our administration, we have looked critically at the way we do business, with the ultimate goal of ensuring the best service possible for our customers, and for the taxpayers of the United States,” Perdue said. “In some cases, this has meant realigning some of our offices and functions, or even relocating them, in order to make more logical sense or provide more streamlined and efficient services.”

USDA has also been having difficulties recruiting employees to the D.C. area given the city’s high cost of living, as well as trouble attracting and retaining qualified staff after experiencing “significant turnover” of employees with training and interest in agriculture, according to the release.

New locations have not been determined and it’s possible that the two agencies could be combined in one city.

Every employee who wants to continue working for the sub-agencies will be offered relocation assistance. USDA is also seeking approval from the Office of Personnel Management and the Office of Management and Budget to allow people to voluntarily retire early or receive separation incentive payments.

“None of this reflects on the jobs being done by our ERS or NIFA employees,” Perdue said. “In fact, I frequently tell my cabinet colleagues that USDA has the best workforce in the federal government.”