Lobbying by Missouri lawmakers, including Congressman Sam Graves, may have been instrumental in the U.S. Agriculture Department’s decision to relocate two agencies to Kansas City.
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue made the announcement Thursday morning that the National Institute of Food and Agriculture and the Economic Research Service would move from the nation’s capital to western Missouri.
Graves said Thursday that the relocation will bring 500 jobs to the region.
“It just makes sense to move these USDA agencies out of Washington, D.C., to the Midwest, the heart of farm country,” said the North Missouri Republican, whose district includes part of the Kansas City metropolitan area.
In a letter to the “USDA Family” and signed by “Secretary Sonny,” Perdue said the move of the two agencies will generate $300 million in savings over a 15-year period, allowing for more direct funding for department programs.
He said the Kansas City region has been “a hub for all things agriculture” and already has a significant presence of USDA workers and other federal employees.
“Our belief is that this relocation will give USDA the opportunity to attract a staff with training and interest in agriculture,” Perdue said in the letter.
Perdue said last year that the agencies would be moving out of Washington, citing costs and workforce considerations as reasons. Graves joined fellow Reps. Vicky Hartzler and Emanuel Cleaver in advocating for a Kansas City relocation.
In May, Kansas City got selected as one of three finalists from 139 locations expressing interest. At that time, 11 lawmakers from Missouri and Kansas, including the U.S. senators from the two states, again appealed to the agriculture secretary.
Other finalists were the Indiana area around Purdue University and the Research Triangle in North Carolina, the area of Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill.
“This move underscores the quality of life that we have here and the economic value that the Midwest brings to the table,” Graves said Thursday. “This will be a great boost for our economy and help bring USDA research closer to the people it serves while saving the taxpayers an incredible amount of money in the process.”
Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt praised the decision as timely in addressing global food needs.
“The challenges and opportunities have never been greater than they will be in the next 25 years,” the Missouri Republican said. “These research agencies do great work and will be at the cutting edge of agriculture and well located for assistance and examples as they do their job.”
Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran said Thursday morning that the relocation of the agencies makes good sense.
“The animal health corridor, stretching from Manhattan, Kansas, to Columbia, Missouri, is the largest concentration of animal health companies in the world, and Kansas also is the home of the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility,” the Republican senator said.
“Today’s decision further bolsters Kansas City’s status as a national leader in the ag industry.”
At the state level, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson said the USDA chose well in picking a state of agricultural diversity with access to cutting-edge research at land-grant universities.
“By choosing a location close to their farmer-constituent base, these offices will remain rooted in agriculture and, as a result, will be better able to make decisions that serve American agriculture well,” the governor said.
The agencies involve USDA functions that do not require location in the nation’s capital, which has considerably higher operational costs.
As its mission, the Economic Research Service crunches numbers to spot trends in agriculture, food and rural life. The National Institute of Food and Agriculture looks into initiatives that ensure the long-term viability of farming and food production.