The research agency has seen 88 employees quit rather than move to Kansas City by the end of September, along with 50 retirements, since the relocation was announced last August, according to the union representing ERS staff.
That attrition is weighing heavily on the agency’s work: managers at the Agriculture Department now anticipate “significant delays” in publishing ERS reports because of the turnover, reports Pro Ag’s Liz Crampton.
An internal USDA memo obtained by POLITICO details 38 specific publications that might be postponed, or even discontinued. “Due to decreased staffing levels, ERS will for considerable time be unable to provide the same level of breadth and depth in its economic research and outlook analysis as it did in the past,” the memo states.
Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), a leading critic of the relocation, called the revelations “an entirely avoidable travesty.”
“The research farmers depend on has been put in jeopardy by an administration hellbent on suppressing all data that doesn’t align with their political agenda,” Pingree said in a statement to MA. “The repercussions of this could be felt by rural states for years.”
ERS reports can influence farmers’ business decisions and commodity markets. While many of the agency’s research products will still be released on time, including critical outlook reports, the analyses could be “shortened if key staff depart before new hires are trained,” the memo says.
A USDA spokesperson said ERS “has taken important action to ensure mission continuity and delivery of mission critical work throughout the transition, and as a result, the agency is on track to complete its congressionally mandated projects.”
The employees’ union said only 19 out of 280 workers at ERS chose to relocate, or just 7 percent of the total staff. Another 44 employees were granted special accommodations to temporarily continue working from Washington or an extension to report to their new office space in Kansas City.
The department spokesperson said USDA is actively recruiting for more than 100 positions at ERS and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, which is also being uprooted from its D.C. headquarters.
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