KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue declared he had no regrets about relocating the offices of the Economic Research Service (ERS) and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) to Kansas City, Missouri. Perdue's remarks came following a tour of the new office space Nov. 11.
The building, at 805 Pennsylvania Ave. in downtown Kansas City, will be the headquarters for 500 employees who work for NIFA and ERS. Until the new space is ready for occupancy, current employees that have relocated are working out of a temporary office in the area.
In remarks during a media briefing, Perdue reiterated the competitive process the US Dept. of Agriculture engaged before making a final decision.
“There were over 136 expressions of interest when we began this, and we had to filter through all those and came down to three very competitive groups where people could have been happy in Raleigh, or Indianapolis or Kansas City,” Perdue said. “Yet, the things that you all did here as a team is really meaningful -- working together.”
Perdue then doubled down on his decision to move ERS and NIFA headquarters which generated controversy in Washington, DC.
“These people in the room may not know how much opposition we faced in DC,” he said. “I was surprised, myself, by how much opposition – I thought we were literally doing the right thing, and I am convinced today even more so, having been here and seeing where we’ll be on the ground that we did the right thing. But you would have thought we weren’t very good – probably the best euphemism I can use about making that decision.”
Many employees with NIFA and ERS challenged the plan, and a report from the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) raised questions regarding USDA’s budgetary authority to move the agencies.
But, Perdue had argued that moving ERS and NIFA would help farmers by bringing researchers closer to the agriculture industry rather than being “...totally isolated in USDA.”
“I have absolutely zero regrets of beginning this process and finishing this process right here in Kansas City,” he declared.
Perdue was accompanied by Missouri Gov. Mike Parsons, Sen. Roy Blunt, US Rep. Roger Marshall and Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas.