FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 26, 2019

Contact:
Tim Kauffman

202-639-6405/202-374-6491
[email protected]

USDA Economic Research Service Faces Mission Catastrophic Attrition with September Move

Categories: USDA

4 out of 5 employees likely to decline reassignment, union data suggest

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service (ERS) is projected to experience catastrophic employee attrition as a result of the short-notice move of three-quarters of all ERS employees out of the National Capital Region, according to attrition data obtained and compiled by American Federal Government Employees Local 3403 as part of a summary of all employees.

ERS could expect more than 4 out of 5 of the more than 200 employees being reassigned to temporary offices in Kansas City to decline relocation. Given the aggressive timeline to move all positions before the end of the current fiscal year, AFGE Local 3403 estimates that 2 out of 3 employees are certain they will decline relocation. Attrition data is listed by research divisions below. The Information Services Division may experience nearly 100% attrition or no one relocating. The Resource & Rural Economics Division may experience more than 90% attrition, with the Food Economics Division experiencing 89% attrition. The Market and Trade Economics Division and Office of Administrator could anticipate 3 out of 4 employees to decline to relocate.

Including the 76 ERS employees identified to remain in Washington, D.C., the attrition across ERS is projected to be 50-60%. However, many of those remaining in D.C. also say they are seeking new employment because they are scheduled to be reassigned to a yet-to-be identified new facility within the National Capital Region.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced June 13 that 250 ERS employees are among the more than 550 USDA research employees scheduled to move to Kansas City on or before Sept. 30.

“The current and projected attrition will curtail research data products that encompass commodity estimates, agricultural sector forecasts, food and farm economic and statistical indicators for U.S. agriculture, conservation, and food policy and markets,” Local 3403 Acting Vice President Kevin Hunt said.

For example, ERS commodity outlook program delivers timely, independent, and objective information about agricultural markets and provides projections of U.S. and world agricultural commodity production, consumption, and trade. These outlook reports are highly anticipated for U.S. and global markets. Other ERS data products include forecasts of farm business and household income, commodity cost of production, outlook reports covering major crops and livestock products, annual 10-year projections for the farm sector, forecasts of the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for food, estimates of U.S. and international agricultural productivity, rural county typologies, state fact sheets, annual reports on food security of U.S. households, the Food Access Research Atlas, the Food Environment Atlas, and Cost Estimates of Foodborne Illnesses.

These attrition findings include retirements, employees securing new jobs, and employees choosing to be terminated. 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.

AFGE ANALYSIS OF ERS PROPOSED RELOCATIONS

Topline: The relocation crisis created by Secretary Perdue has resulted in catastrophic attrition at USDA’s top research agencies. This threatens congressionally mandated scientific research related to agriculture and food systems and ERS’s standing as a Federal Principal Statistical Agency is put at serious risk. Evidence suggests that the relocation of these agencies is an attempt to hollow out and dismantle USDA science that helps farmers and protects our food supply.

Congress needs to provide oversight on the relocation immediately to ensure critical agriculture research is not irreparably damaged. Rehiring and retraining new employees could take years to achieve and even longer to reach current capacity. The low number of employees relocating to Kansas City highlights that relocation has been poorly incentivize for remaining in civil service.

Table 1: Estimated attrition rates at ERS from the announcement of the relocation through October 1, 2019.

Mission Program Areas

Attrition rate

Reassigned Employees

Total Employees

Not moving

Not moving and Maybe not moving

Not moving

Not moving and Maybe not moving

Markets and Trade Economics (MTED)

72%

78%

53%

57%

Food Economics (FED)

81%

92%

62%

71%

Rural and Resource Economics (RRED)

53%

89%

40%

67%

Information Services (ISD)

85%

100%

43%

50%

Office of Administrator (OA)

45%

79%

36%

64%

ERS

69%

87%

48%

61%

 

Table 2: Estimated number of reassigned ERS employees relocating to Kansas City through October 1, 2019.

Mission Program Areas

Number of employees moving to Kansas City

Moving

Moving and maybe moving

Markets and Trade Economics (MTED)

12

15

Food Economics (FED)

4

10

Rural and Resource Economics (RRED)

5

21

Information Services (ISD)

0

5

Office of Administrator (OA)

6

16

ERS

27

67

 

Notes: Relocation first announced August 9, 2018. The reassigned employees are ERS employees that were reassigned or would have been reassigned had they remained at ERS. Total employees includes reassigned employees and the employees staying in the National Capital Region.

Source: AFGE Local 3403 summary of ERS employees. For examples of ERS research, see: https://www.ers.usda.gov/ or https://www.ers.usda.gov/amber-waves/

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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