USDA (copy)


In landing two U.S. Department of Agriculture facilities, Missouri and Kansas lawmakers didn’t just prevail over their counterparts in North Carolina and Indiana.

Sure, Kansas City was able to beat out those states in an effort to lure the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture and the Economic Research Service. The USDA announced Thursday that those two agencies would relocate from Washington, D.C., and bring 500 jobs to the Kansas City area.

For Kansas City, the real threat wasn’t Indiana’s connection to Purdue University or the vaunted research triangle in North Carolina. It was entrenched bureaucratic interests that wanted — and still wish — to keep USDA jobs in the nation’s capital.

Just listen to the statements from different parts of the country about this move.

Here’s U.S. Rep. Sam Graves of Tarkio: “It just makes sense to move these USDA agencies out of Washington, D.C., to the Midwest — the heart of farm country.” Graves, a Republican, and fellow Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, a Kansas City Democrat, signed a letter that struck an upbeat tone on Kansas City’s attributes.

The view from inside the Beltway was a little less positive. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Maryland, remains an outspoken critic of the relocation, while some USDA employees vow to stay on the East Coast.

“It is going to destroy the agency, destroy science, wreck families and wreck homes,” said USDA economist Laura Dodson, in a Tribune News Service report.

Wow. Maybe they don’t know about the barbecue. We would remind the esteemed scientists and economists who serve our agriculture community that this part of the country has several amenities, like an international airport, with flights to both Dulles and National, and modern telecommunications that allow instant access to other area codes. Kansas City also has a lower cost of living and reduced levels of traffic congestion.

These two USDA agencies do important work, with one studying nutrition and ways to enhance the nation’s food supply and the other analyzing the farm economy, food safety and global trade.

They could probably do this kind of work anywhere, but in our view the move to Kansas City makes sense because it gets a rural agency closer to rural stakeholders, therefore strengthening the USDA and its mission.

The Kansas and Missouri delegation quietly did its job in not only promoting Kansas City, but in fending off a Beltway-knows-best-mentality that exists in federal agencies and threatened to derail this move.

The federal government has advocated some crazy ideas over the years. Locating government work devoted to farming into an area devoted to farming? That doesn’t seem like one of them.