Federal employees turn their backs on Agriculture secretary after relocation plans announced

Members of the American Federation of Government Employees turned their backs on Agriculture Secretary Sonny PerdueGeorge (Sonny) Ervin PerdueOvernight Health Care: Trump reportedly lashed out at health chief over polling | Justices to hear ObamaCare birth control case | Trump rolls back Michelle Obama school lunch rules Trump to roll back Michelle Obama's school lunch rules on vegetables, fruits Cities, states sue over planned Trump cuts to food stamps MORE on Thursday, apparently over plans to relocate them from Washington to the Kansas City area.

Perdue announced Thursday that two of the Department of Agriculture’s research agencies, the Economic Research Service (ERS) and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, will be relocated to be closer to major farming regions, according to Politico.

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While Perdue has justified the relocation as a way to improve customer service and save taxpayers up to $20 million per year, some ERS employees have said it is a political move, according to the publication.

Specifically, some ERS staff have expressed suspicions the relocation is an attempt to shrink the agency and weaken its ability to conduct research that does not align with the Trump administration’s policy agenda.

The department retreated on another proposal to shift ERS within the department’s organizational structure to place it under the Office of the Chief Economist, according to Politico.

"While we believe there is considerable synergies and benefits to a realignment, after hearing feedback from stakeholders and members of Congress, USDA will not move forward with the realignment plans," the department said.

Employees at both agencies voted to unionize after the relocation was announced, according to Politico. They are expected to receive relocation letters Thursday and will be given 30 days to make a decision, according to the American Federation of Government Employees.

Union reps said employees were not given advance notice of the announcement and that they learned of the site selection via media reports despite Perdue’s assurances he would provide notice.

The relocation has divided Congress along partisan lines as well, with the four Republicans who represent Kansas and Missouri in the Senate issuing a joint statement praising the move.

Rep. Marcia FudgeMarcia Louise FudgeOwning up to the failures of welfare reform US Virgin Islands delegate vies for impeachment manager position With holidays approaching, new SNAP rule hurts families and fails businesses MORE (D-Ohio) and Del. Stacey PlaskettStacey PlaskettUS Virgin Islands delegate vies for impeachment manager position Omar says US should reconsider aid to Israel Schumer to donate Epstein campaign contributions to groups fighting sexual violence MORE (D-Virgin Islands), who hold key positions on House subcommittees with jurisdiction over the agencies, have said the process has lacked transparency, according to Politico.

Rep. Chellie PingreeRochelle (Chellie) PingreeDemocrats spend big to put Senate in play Overnight Energy: EPA chief touts benefits of deregulation for environment | Trump officials weaken fish protections Interior chief once lobbied against | USDA watchdog to probe handling of climate reports USDA's internal watchdog to probe allegedly buried climate change reports MORE (D-Maine), who has co-sponsored legislation to halt the relocation, said a USDA inspector general review “examining the viability of this relocation is not complete."