WASHINGTON – The US Dept. of Agriculture released a pared-down list of potential locations for the agency’s Economic Research Service (ERS) and National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).

The top three finalists are Indiana, the greater Kansas City region (Missouri and Kansas), and North Carolina (Research Triangle region). These states were selected as finalists based on a set of established criteria including quality of life; capital and operating costs, workforce and logistics/IT infrastructure.

St. Louis and Madison, Wisconsin, remain under consideration as alternative locations.

“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,” Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said. “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.”

Perdue announced plans to relocate ERS and NIFA employees last year. The high cost of living and long commutes to Washington presented a challenge to recruitment and retention of qualified employees. USDA said the move would yield employment cost and rent savings while moving USDA resources closer to food and agricultural stakeholders.

USDA received 136 proposals from parties in 35 states vying to become the new home of ERS and NIFA.