Mass Exodus Projected If USDA Forces NIFA Workers to Relocate

Categories: USDA, The Insider

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) is projected to experience catastrophic employee attrition as a result of the short-notice move of 90% of all NIFA employees out of the National Capital Region, according to attrition data obtained and compiled by AFGE Local 3403 as part of a summary of all employees.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced June 13 that approximately 294 NIFA employees are among the more than 550 USDA research employees scheduled to move to Kansas City on or before Sept. 30.

Employees must respond to relocation orders by July 15, giving families too brief of a period to uproot and complete their move to an area where some school districts start the year on August 12. To make matters worse, GSA extended the deadline by which they were going to choose a permanent location in Kansas City for new employees, meaning employees will have to find housing and choose schools without knowing the location of their employer and even whether it will be located in Kansas or Missouri.

NIFA could expect that more than 70% of the employees being reassigned to temporary offices in Kansas City will refuse to relocate – mirroring results of an earlier analysis of ERS employees .

Given the aggressive timeline to move all positions before the end of the current fiscal year, AFGE’s NIFA Local 3403 estimates that 71% of employees are certain they will not make the move to Kansas City, although 29% would be willing to consider relocation if AGFE demands such as a reasonable amount of time for employees to make arrangements for their families and housing were agreed to by the USDA.

While a fully staffed NIFA has 315 employees, NIFA has lost 23 employees since late February, leaving the agency with 224 staff or 71% of a full complement. The local estimates that 83 more staff plan to leave through retirements, other jobs, or simply because they are unwilling to leave their homes for the Kansas City region. This would leave NIFA with 141 staff or 45% of the full complement. In addition, many employees who may relocate to Kansas City tell AFGE Local 3403 that they may only relocate short term until they find employment in their preferred localities.

“Moving a granting agency at the end of the fiscal year will have a detrimental impact on getting grant money out the door to our stakeholders,” said Wesley Dean, Local 3403 acting vice president for NIFA. “Our staff, with all their years of experience, are leaving for other agencies. We should be focused on this, rather than hastily moving the agency.”

Working with scientists, researchers, educators, and organizations around the country, NIFA makes vital contributions to cutting edge federally-funded science.

NIFA programs advance the competitiveness of American agriculture, bolster the U.S. economy, enhance the safety of the nation’s food supply, improve the nutrition and well-being of American citizens, sustain natural resources and the environment, and build energy independence.

NIFA is the federal partner of the nation’s Land-Grant University System, which includes the 1862 public universities; the 1890 historically black colleges and universities and Tuskegee University; and the 1994 tribal colleges and universities.

To see how NIFA funding impacts your area, you can visit this website which shows the number of grants made per each Congressional District.

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