January 23, 2020

Agriculture Secretary supports ERS and NIFA relocation, but USDA morale is low

Agriculture Secretary supports ERS and NIFA relocation, but USDA morale is low

 The “Office of Personnel Management” survey showed a decline in employee engagement at USDA, promoted by the relocation of the Economic Research Service (ERS) and National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA) from Washington, DC to Kansas City. Chair of the House agriculture subcommittee on nutrition oversight and department operations Rep. Marcia L. Fudge (D-Ohio), stated that “The drastic drop in morale and significant staff turnover at ERS and NIFA are indicative of how the department’s ill-conceived decision to uproot employees out of their jobs and move them to Kansas City will impact research critical to farmers and policy-makers.”

Despite the lack of morale, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said that at a job fair, more than 6,000 applications were received for 300 jobs available and he is “excited about it”, telling Feedstuffs that he hopes to have a full class of new ERS hires by mid-summer of 2020. Perdue also said that despite various reports, work at ERS has persisted, with staff continuing in Washington to finish projects or with accommodations made to uphold the agency’s mission.

The survey also found that other USDA branches, such as the Office of Civil Rights, the Foreign Agricultural Service, and the Food Safety and Inspection Service, saw a decline in employee engagement. Fudge noted “it is not surprising USDA experienced the largest decline in employee morale last year and continues to rank almost dead last in engagement among all large federal agencies. These findings demonstrate the toll the department’s misguided decisions are taking on dedicated civil servants.”