The planned move of U.S. Department of Agriculture researchers from Washington, D.C., to the Kansas City area was hailed by leaders from both Kansas and Missouri. But workers in the Economic Research Service and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture were less enthusiastic; more than half have decided not to make the move.
Both perspectives are understandable, but we hope that the agencies and states involved collaborate in good faith to make the relocation work.
The worst possible outcome? That the talented scientists and researchers can’t be replaced and that the agencies lose political clout. Having quality, nonpartisan research makes a different for policy and those working the agriculture sector. It would be a shame if Kansas and Missouri were merely being used as pawns in an administration effort to dismantle agencies.
The human cost, unfortunately, is real. Many of these folks have deep roots in their communities, spouses with jobs and family obligations. For some, moving to Kansas in a short time is likely simply impossible.
The human cost is unfortunate because the Kansas City area actually makes great sense for relocation plans. Northeast Kansas is growing and economically vibrant. The communities here are great places to live, work and play. Those federal employees who decide to make the move won’t regret it. The closeness to major agriculture producers is a plus, and breaking up the insular culture of Washington, D.C., bureaucracy can’t hurt.
Regardless on what side of the Kansas-Missouri border the agency finally lands (the decision still seems to be in flux), we have no doubt that many of those coming from D.C. will land in Kansas. For those who have decided to make the change, we welcome you with open arms. You’ll find a much cheaper cost of living, friendly and supportive friends and neighbors, thriving cultural scenes, and abundant opportunities for recreation.
And there will be open spots for Kansas and Missouri employees as well. While those to the east may claim that no one in the area could possibly be qualified to do this work, we’re sure that Kansas universities have trained more than their share of top-flight researchers. The work in Manhattan around the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility will only bolster their numbers.
The USDA likely should have managed this change better, perhaps by giving employees more time to make up their minds. But with the situation being what it is, Kansans should welcome these agencies with open arms and make sure the transferred employees feel welcome.