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Harvest Public Media is a reporting collaboration focused on issues of food, fuel and field. Based at KCUR in Kansas City, Missouri, Harvest covers agriculture-related topics through a network of reporters and partner stations throughout the Midwest.

USDA Inspector General: Moving Research Offices From DC To KC Isn't Quite Legal

The USDA wants to move two of its agencies from Washington, D.C. to Kansas City.
Amy Mayer
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Harvest Public Media file photo
The USDA wants to move two of its agencies from Washington, D.C. to Kansas City.

Critics of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s decision to move two of its research agencies from Washington, D.C., to the Kansas City area got more ammunition this week.

The most recent development: A report from the USDA’s inspector general that finds some flaws with how the department has executed its plan. 

Last September, U.S. Reps. Eleanor Holmes Norton of Washington, D.C. and Steny Hoyer, both Democrats, sent a letter asking the inspector general to determine whether the move was legal. 

The report found that moving the agencies is within the USDA’s authority, but it failed to meet certain criteria for spending the needed money. The inspector general asked USDA to get an opinion from the legal office, which determined the rules referenced are unconstitutional. 

But the inspector general’s report notes that in the past, USDA determined the same rules “are binding upon the Department.”

In response to the report, Norton and Hoyer want USDA to put the brakes on its planned moves.

“We continue to urge Secretary Perdue to halt this misguided relocation process,” the two wrote in a statement.

The offices of Democratic Rep. Sharice Davids, who represents the Kansas side of the Kansas City area, and Missouri Republican Sen. Roy Blunt declined comment on Tuesday after the inspector general’s report became public.

In a guest commentary in The Kansas City Star on Sunday, Blunt wrote that the area makes sense for the agencies for a variety of reasons. Among them: it’s in the animal health research corridor, is close to many land-grant universities in the region that conduct agricultural research and is already home to the USDA’s Farm Service Agency and the Risk Management Agency. 

Many groups have criticized the Trump administration and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue for moving the agencies, branding the move as retaliation against ERS and NIFA research that clashes with the administration’s agenda. The left-leaning National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition issued a statement calling on the moves to be stopped.

“We urge Congress to take this information as an opportunity to end once and for all Secretary Perdue’s strong-arm tactics,” the group wrote, and stop all action on the relocations until Congress has given its formal approval — or denial.”

Follow Amy on Twitter: @AgAmyinAmes

Copyright 2019 Harvest Public Media

Amy Mayer is a reporter based in Ames. She covers agriculture and is part of the Harvest Public Media collaboration. Amy worked as an independent producer for many years and also previously had stints as weekend news host and reporter at WFCR in Amherst, Massachusetts and as a reporter and host/producer of a weekly call-in health show at KUAC in Fairbanks, Alaska. Amy’s work has earned awards from SPJ, the Alaska Press Club and the Massachusetts/Rhode Island AP. Her stories have aired on NPR news programs such as Morning Edition, All Things Considered and Weekend Edition and on Only A Game, Marketplace and Living on Earth. She produced the 2011 documentary Peace Corps Voices, which aired in over 160 communities across the country and has written for The New York Times, Boston Globe, Real Simple and other print outlets. Amy served on the board of directors of the Association of Independents in Radio from 2008-2015.