Last week, we discussed the debate on relocating the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Economic Research Service (ERS) and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue argues the move would bring two essential offices out of the Washington, D.C. area, and get them closer to the farmers they serve. Opponents of the move say this will forcing employees into a situation where they must choose between uprooting their lives or finding new employment through no fault of their own.
In May, the employees at the ERS voted to unionize. The employees at NIFA voted to do the same on Monday, according to an Agri-Pulse report. This move has been made for the agencies to be able to have bargaining rights with the American Federation of Government Employees. This means the USDA must now provide notification to the employees before any changes can occur and must be ready to enter good-faith negotiations with the union.
The proposed moves would affect approximately 568 of the 664 employees in both agencies, according to the Federation. The USDA has proposed to move both departments out of Washington and to one of three proposed locations: Kansas City, Indiana, or North Carolina.