U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) praised the news that the U.S. Department of Agriculture intends to move the Economic Research Service (ERS) and National Institute of Foood and Agriculture (NIFA) outside of the Beltway.

“I’m glad to see USDA is considering moving two of its agencies outside of ‘swampy’ Washington. For too long, our federal agencies have been out-of-touch and unaware of the impact that their policies have on folks in states like Iowa, and across the country. While this proposal doesn’t go as far as my SWAMP Act, relocating these agriculture agencies outside the Beltway is a good step in the right direction and an example that I hope other federal agencies will follow,” Ernst, member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Nutrition, said.

In August, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced that most personnel with ERS and the NIFA would move outside of Washington, DC and the National Capital Region by the end of 2019.

He invited interested cities to submit proposals for hosting the research agencies. This week he announced that he received 136 expressions of interest from 35 states. 

The cities of Ankeny, Ames, Council Bluffs, Des Moines, and West Des Moines have expressed interest in hosting the agencies. The Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce representing communities in Iowa and Illinois also expressed interest.

“The interest from across the country has been overwhelming as localities, universities, private entities, and elected officials realize the potential for their communities in becoming the new home for these two agencies,” Perdue said. “It is an old saying that not all wisdom resides in Washington, D.C., but it is gratifying to see so many folks step forward wanting to prove that to be the case.”

Purdue noted that the move will place important USDA resources closer to many stakeholders, most of whom live and work far from the Washington, D.C. area. Additionally, taxpayers will realize significant savings on employment costs and rent, which will allow more employees to be retained in the long run, even in the face of tightening budgets. Finally, the plan will improve USDA’s ability to attract and retain highly qualified staff with training and interests in agriculture, many of whom come from land-grant universities.

He also stated also noted that 91 percent of USDA’s approximately 108,000 employees currently work outside of the Washington, D.C. region. Under the plan no ERS or NIFA employee will be involuntarily terminated, but most will have to agree to relocate.

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