U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue late Friday announced his finalists of 136 Expressions of Interest received from parties in 35 states vying to become the new homes of USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) and National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).
The two units have limited involvement in food safety, but do estimate economic costs of foodborne illnesses and outbreaks.
Nationally-recognized research or agricultural research centers hold the top spots on the finalists’ list. An aging building on Washington D.C.’s waterfront and decade-old highrise currently house the research agencies.
Perdue’s top 3 applicants are:
- Purdue University, Indiana Economic Development Corporation, State of Indiana
- The Kansas City Area Development Council, The Kansas City Animal Health Corridor
- NC Research Triangle, Wake County, Durham County, and Research Triangle Park
Two other applicants will remain active as backup candidates to the three finalists. They are:
- St. Louis Regional Consortium, St. Louis Economic Development Partnership, State of Missouri, Missouri Department of Agriculture, Missouri Partnership
- The city of Madison, the University of Wisconsin–Madison College of Agricultural & Life Sciences (CALS), University of Wisconsin–Madison Office of University Relations, University Research Park, State of Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, and 910 Mayer, LLC
“This short list of locations took into consideration critical factors required to uphold the important missions of ERS and NIFA. We also considered factors important to our employees, such as quality of life,” Secretary Perdue said. “Relocation will help ensure USDA is the most effective, most efficient, and most customer-focused agency in the federal government, allowing us to be closer to our stakeholders and move our resources closer to our customers. Our commitment to the public and our employees is to continue to be transparent as we proceed with our analysis.”
As part of the “rigorous site selection process,” USDA narrowed the Expressions of Interest list using a set of established criteria defined by USDA, NIFA, and ERS leadership. The requirements included:
- Quality of Life: Subcategory examples include Diversity Index, Residential Housing Costs, Access to Healthcare, and Home and Community Safety Ranking.
- Costs (Capital and Operating): Subcategory examples include Commercial Real Estate Costs, CPI Index, and Wage Costs.
- Workforce: Subcategory examples include Labor Force Growth Rate, Unemployment Rate, and the Labor Force Population.
- Logistics / IT Infrastructure: Subcategory examples include Lodging Availability, Proximity to Customers, and Airport Accessibility.
The top Expressions of Interest were reviewed in detail, and USDA selected a short list of locations offering existing buildings with sufficient space to meet ERS and NIFA requirements.
The research agencies established employees mostly oppose the move and beltway interests are fighting it.
“Any gains that USDA asserts will result from relocating ERS and NIFA away from our nation’s research, food and agricultural policymaking are overwhelmingly outweighed by the detrimental impacts,” stated Ron Wasserstein, executive director of the American Statistical Association (ASA). “Further, USDA has neither made a compelling case for such an upheaval nor listened to their own stakeholders, experts, and leaders. Adding insult to injury, they have bypassed the 155-year partnership with land grant universities and Congress that has been a hallmark in determining American agricultural and food research policy.”
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