SPONSORED:

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 PerdueFederal judge strikes down Trump's cuts on food stamps for unemployed EU's 'farm to fork' demands could mean indigestion for US food exporters Baldwin calls for Senate hearing on CDC response to meatpacking plant coronavirus outbreak 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.

ADVERTISEMENT

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 FudgeOfficials urge social media groups to weed out election disinformation targeting minority voters Letter from Trump taking credit for aid now mandated in government food boxes: report This week: House returns for pre-election sprint MORE (D-Ohio) and Del. Stacey PlaskettStacey PlaskettStand-alone bill to provide relief for airlines blocked on House floor DOJ rejects statehood for Puerto Rico — so do Puerto Ricans Bottom line 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) PingreeBiden leads Trump by 11 points in Maine: survey Shakespeare Theatre Company goes virtual for 'Will on the Hill...or Won't They?' USDA commits to trade aid for lobster industry using coronavirus coffers 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."