Federal Employees Protest Agriculture Agencies’ Move to Heartland

Kansas City sign (Steam Pipe Trunk Distribution Venue / Flickr / CC / Cropped)
Steam Pipe Trunk Distribution Venue / Flickr / CC / Cropped

Federal employees from two agencies within the U.S. Department of Agriculture turned their backs on Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue in protest Thursday at news their departments are being moved to Kansas City, Missouri.

CNN reported Friday:

Perdue announced earlier Thursday morning that the Economic Research Service, which provides research and statistical analysis for lawmakers, and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, which allocates federal research funding, will be relocated to Kansas City from Washington, DC, the final announcement in a process that began last year.

The department says the move will save taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars, but many employees view the change as politically driven and a way to disrupt climate research and other work their bosses disagree with. Both agencies recently voted overwhelmingly to unionize to push back against the move.

The relocation plan has drawn opposition from House Democrats, who included language in their budget banning USDA from using funds allocated by Congress to relocate either agency outside the capital. A group of Democratic senators have also introduced legislation that would bar USDA from moving the research agencies.

 

CNN’s report omits two key facts.

The first is that while conservatives have championed the idea, there is also bipartisan support for moving federal government agencies out of Washington, DC.

In March, Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) — who is a candidate for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination — introduced the Federal Government Decentralization Commission Act to “study the relocation of select executive agencies or divisions of agencies outside the Washington metropolitan area.”

The Act would relocate government departments to “economically distressed areas, or areas with expertise in the mission and goal of the agency,” as long as the moves met national security requirements.

Ryan declared at the time that the “Founding Fathers could not have imagined” the country being run by a massive bureaucracy in Washington, DC.

Even left-wing policy pundit Matt Yglesias of Vox.com embraced the idea, writing in December 2016: “Let’s relocate a bunch of government agencies to the Midwest.”

The second fact that CNN omitted is that one of the major arguments in favor of moving federal agencies out of Washington is that doing so would help reduce economic inequality.

CityLab’s Richard Florida wrote in 2017:

It’s not just economic inequality, but rising spatial inequality that is the defining issue of our time. The gap between have and have-not cities and regions is growing, and it contributes to our increasingly divided and dysfunctional politics.

Shifting large pieces of the federal government away from D.C. would benefit smaller, less costly, more economically distressed cities and metros across the country, generating employment and investment in these places, and potentially even help form new industrial clusters.

It would benefit Washington, D.C., too, by relieving pressure on its commercial and residential real estate markets and opening up space for new people and uses.

CNN also noted that the USDA is trimming and restructuring other agencies.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

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