The Greater Kansas region was named one of three finalists to become a site for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Service and Economic Research Service, according to a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee on Agriculture.

 “After months of advocating to Secretary (Sonny) Perdue that these agencies ought to be in the Kansas City area, I’m pleased to see USDA listed Kansas City as a finalist to be the headquarters of these critical agencies. 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 for USDA’s ERS and NIFA,” said U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, R-KS in a news release filed on May 3. “The animal health corridor, stretching from Manhattan, Kansas, to Columbia, Missouri, is the largest concentration of animal health companies in the world; our state is also the future home of the National Bio and Agro-defense Facility, the nation’s foremost animal disease research facility.”

“The concentration of animal health companies and location of NBAF will not only complement the research capabilities of NIFA and ERS, but have also fostered a talented workforce that will help meet the personnel needs of USDA,” he said.

The Greater Kansas City Region includes Kansas and Missouri and applicants were the Kansas City Area Development and the Kansas City Animal Health Corridor.

The USDA also announced two other sites—Indiana and North Carolina—also met the requirements for both entities. The Indiana application was filed by Purdue University, the Indiana Economic Development Corporation and the state of Indiana. The North Carolina application was filed on behalf of the Research Triangle region, which includes NC Research Triangle, Wake County, Durham County, and Research Triangle Park.

“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,” Perdue said in making the announcement May 3. “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.”

Criteria used in the recommendation included quality of life, capital and operating costs, workforce and logistics/IT infrastructure.

If none of the above-location communities could not meet USDA’s needs, it the agency said it would consider sites in St. Louis, Missouri, and Madison, Wisconsin.

The proposed remains a controversial one for those who believe moving the agency away from Washington, D.C., was a short-sighted.

“Any gains that USDA asserts will result from relocating ERS and NIFA away from our nation’s research, food and agricultural policymaking are overwhelmingly outweighed by the detrimental impacts,” stated Ron Wasserstein, executive director of the American Statistical Association.  “Further, USDA has neither made a compelling case for such an upheaval nor listened to their own stakeholders, experts and leaders. Adding insult to injury, they have bypassed the 155-year partnership with land grant universities and Congress that has been a hallmark in determining American agricultural and food research policy.”

ASA leaders also reissued their points made regarding USDA’s March release of the “middle” list:  

“We’re disappointed to see USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue persisting in his plans to uproot the USDA research arm, despite the overwhelming concerns of its former leaders and the greater statistical and agricultural research community,” said Wasserstein. “The USDA leadership developed their plans without consulting any of the agency’s current or former research and statistical heads or the broader research community. With that community now having strongly voiced its concerns and opposition, USDA seems intent to proceed without course corrections.”

“We thank Congress for expressing its concerns and seeking clarity from USDA for both the rationale and the costs and impacts of the ERS/NIFA move,” said 2019 ASA President Karen Kafadar. “Regrettably, USDA’s announcement today dismisses the input from ERS/NIFA's customers and stakeholders, primarily policy- and decision-makers. We continue to believe that this move is not only costly to US taxpayers but removes ERS from its critical mission, 'to conduct high-quality, objective economic research to inform and enhance public and private decision-making.' We strongly urge Congress to halt USDA’s plans to move ERS/NIFA to protect the research and statistical foundations of our food, agricultural and rural economies.”

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