The USDA is relocating two of its top scientific agencies to Kansas City, but many employees aren't planning to make the move.
The Trump administration wants to force hundreds of federal employees to relocate halfway across the country. Now, more than half are saying they won't go.
Last June, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced his plan to relocate two key scientific agencies — the Economic Research Service (ERS) and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) — to Kansas City, Missouri. He didn't give employees much notice about the move, either. They are required to report to work in Kansas City by Sept. 30.
Many of those employees say they would rather leave than relocate.
Out of 171 employees at the ERS, 99 have either failed to respond to the relocation request or declined. At NIFA, 151 out of 224 employees either didn't respond or declined.
At first, this almost seems like a win for the employees. Many of them hate Perdue's plan so much that they're willing to walk away from their jobs. Sadly, this might be exactly the outcome the Trump administration wants.
This administration is waging a war on science, and the agencies affected by the relocation are doing exactly the kind of science the administration is targeting. ERS looks at food security and climate change, while NIFA does research that has contradicted the Trump administration's talking points on trade policies and agriculture. By relocating those agencies — and losing scores of top scientists in the process — the administration can effectively undercut their missions.
This forced move isn't just haphazard in terms of staffing. It appears the Department of Agriculture hasn't even found a building to rent or an area to build an office in Kansas City. If the USDA chooses to build a facility, that process may take up to two years, according to a group of Democratic lawmakers who wrote to the USDA questioning the timeline for the move.
If employees don't know where their permanent office space will be, it is "nearly impossible for your employees to determine where they will be living, where to send their children to school and other important decisions," the Democratic lawmakers wrote.
A few dozen employees have already left their positions at ERS and NIFA. An official from the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), which represents these employees, said the union hasn't "gotten any direction about the continuity issues at NIFA or ERS."
Employees have also told the union their current projects "will be all botched up."
The Trump administration thrives on chaos. Trump officials are waging a war on science, and in the process, have succeeded in throwing these important scientific agencies into complete disarray.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.