Federal workers at two science agencies are reportedly quitting in droves since plans were announced to move Agriculture Department staffers out of Washington.
The Washington Post reported the staff upheaval has hit the Economic Research Service and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture in the wake of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue's relocation announcement last August.
A site for the ERS office is likely to be announced Friday, Peter Winch, an organizer for the American Federation of Government Employees, a union that represents ERS workers, told the Post. Workers at NIFA will hold a union vote in June.
"We don't undertake these relocations lightly, and we are doing it to improve performance and the services these agencies provide," Perdue told the Post in a statement.
He has presented the relocation as a money-saving plan that will move scientists closer to farmers, the news outlet reported.
ERS is a statistical agency that provides research for lawmakers; NIFA funds hundreds of millions of dollars in agricultural research each year. Each office employs between 200 and 250 people — down from the Obama administration years, when NIFA had about 400 workers and ERS had 300.
The plan faces obstacles, the Post noted, including a USDA inspector general investigating into whether Perdue has the legal authority to relocate agencies, the Post report. The House Appropriations Committee's draft bill of agricultural appropriations also prohibits the department from using funds for relocations outside the capital area, the Post reported.
"Morale is pretty poor,” an unnamed ERS economist told the Post, estimating the resignation rates have doubled since October.
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