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USDA relocations curtail ag research, farmer confidence

 
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СообщениеДобавлено: 7.03.2021 10:58    Заголовок сообщения: USDA relocations curtail ag research, farmer confidence Ответить с цитатой

USDA relocations curtail ag research, farmer confidence



More than a year after two U.S. Department of Agriculture research agencies were moved from the nation’s capital to Kansas City, Missouri, they remain critically understaffed and some farmers are less confident in the work they produce

BELLE PLAINE, Kan. -- More than a year after two U.S. Department of Agriculture research agencies were moved from the nation's capital to Kansas City, Missouri, forcing a mass exodus of employees who couldn't or didn't want to move halfway across the country, they remain critically understaffed and some farmers are less confident in the work they produce.

The decision to move the Economic Research Service and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture in September 2019 was pitched as putting them closer to farmers in the nation's breadbasket, though much of their work involves advising members of Congress back in Washington. After the relocation was announced, President Donald Trump's chief of staff at the time, Mick Mulvaney, joked that moving the jobs to Kansas City was also “a wonderful way to streamline government.”

Tom Vilsack inherited a demoralized workforce at the two agencies when he took over as secretary of agriculture under President Joe Biden. With 235 vacancies between them, the agencies continued to hire during the pandemic and administration change, but they are putting out work that is smaller in scope and less frequent, causing some farmers to look elsewhere for data they rely on to run their operations.

Among them is Vance Ehmke, who said that since the USDA relocations occurred, he has been paying a lot more attention to private market analysis and what private grain companies are doing. The information feeds his decisions on everything from whether to buy more land or a new tractor to whether to build more grain bins.

“Here, when we need really good, hard information, you are really starting to question groups like USDA, which before that had a sterling reputation,” Ehmke said recently. “But out in the country, people are worried about how good the information is now because those groups are operating at half capacity.”

The relocation hollowed out years of specialized experience and delayed or scuttled some of the agencies' research and other work. Hiring at the Kansas City site remains well below the roughly 550 high-paying jobs local leaders had anticipated.

Farmers rely on the research to make decisions on a wide range of topics, from rural community planning to farming with climate change and volatile weather conditions, said Aaron Lehman, a farmer who is president of the Iowa Farmers Union.

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