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 PerdueWe must reject the 'go big or go home' mentality of modern agriculture Overnight Energy: Perry denies he is planning to resign | Workers sue over Trump rule on pork inspections | Video shows cacti at national monument being bulldozed for border wall Workers sue over Trump administration rule that speeds inspection of pork products 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 FudgeHillicon Valley: Zuckerberg to testify on Libra | Extremists find home on Telegram app | Warren blasts Facebook for not removing anti-Biden ad | California outlaws facial recognition in police body cameras | China rips US tech sanctions House Democrats introduce new legislation to combat foreign election interference Harris wins endorsement of former CBC Chairwoman Marcia Fudge MORE (D-Ohio) and Del. Stacey PlaskettStacey PlaskettOmar says US should reconsider aid to Israel Schumer to donate Epstein campaign contributions to groups fighting sexual violence House Democrat backtracks, will now donate Epstein's campaign contributions 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) PingreeCongress pumps brakes on Interior push to relocate Bureau of Land Management Overnight Energy: Changing climate boosts Maine lobster industry -- for now | 2020 Dems debate climate response at Detroit debate | Dem asks for perjury investigation into Interior nominee Changing climate boosts Maine lobster industry — for now 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."