USDA job openings pop up in Kansas City ahead of big relocation

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Dozens of USDA job openings are listed online for the Kansas City market. This comes as the United States Department of Agriculture prepares to relocate its headquarters to Kansas City.

The jobs pay well. Some come with a six-figure salary. These jobs include anything from writing grants, biology research, social science research, rural community development, statistics, auditing, accounting, and office administration.

The USDA job openings, in part, are a result of a large exodus of workers who have decided to quit instead of relocate out of Washington D.C.

Many of the posted jobs require a college education or higher and include benefit packages. Scroll to the bottom of this page for links to those jobs.

USDA hiring opportunities

According to the Kansas City Area Development Council, the USDA will hire at least 50 people and up to 90 employees during the first round of hires. This includes 40 to 80 positions for the National Institute of Food and Agriculture and 10 or more positions for the Economic Research Service.

In total, the USDA plans to move about 570 jobs to Kansas City. Despite the positives of strong jobs coming to our area, there is notable contention over the relocation deal.

The union representing USDA workers, some Democrat leaders, and critics claim the relocation was a political move by the Trump Administration to diminish the power of the department, which does research on climate change and the environment. Critics have argued that President Donald Trump’s goals, policies, or priorities don’t always align with the USDA’s work and research.

The USDA claims the move will improve operations over the next decade and save taxpayers money.

As for the move, it is unclear when the USDA will announce what building it has selected for its operations. It is also unclear whether the headquarters will be in Kansas City, Missouri or Kansas City, Kansas.

Employees relocating from the Washington D.C. area are expected to move to the metro by the end of September; this year’s federal budget ends on September 30th.

Contention over relocation

Some of the employees who decided to quit rather than relocate will receive buyouts. However, the USDA reduced those buyouts from $25,000 per employee to $10,000.

The USDA claims the reduction in buyout payments has to do with the higher than expected number of employees refusing to transfer.

Eligible workers will receive a lump-sum payment for resigning or retiring. 91 employees were eligible for the Voluntary Separation Incentive Payment plan. Around 250 employees plan to quit.

During the relocation announcement on June 13, employees turned their backs in a silent protest to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.

Near the end of his nine-minute speech, Perdue said, “Moving you out of the capital area in no way lessens your importance.”

The secretary took no questions from employees after making the announcement.

Union officials described the relocation process as an unprecedented mess.

“It’s hard to imagine USDA management finding more ways to demoralize the workers at these two agencies, yet they continue to top themselves at every turn,” AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. said in a release. “It’s no secret that employees are extremely upset by USDA’s decision to relocate these two agencies half-way across the country… USDA should have planned better for that reality and budgeted accordingly.”

employees coming out of retirement to help the USDA

Most of the employees at the Economic Service and National Institute for Food and Agriculture intend to quit rather than relocate.

In order to keep operations running as normal during the transition process, the department is offering jobs to retired employees. Current workers have until September 26 to make a final decision on whether they will accept the relocation offer or leave the department. If retired workers return to the USDA, they will still receive their defined benefit annuities.

One former ERS employee says the department offered him half of his previous salary to work 20 hours a week at an office in Washington D.C. and then offered him the chance to work from home in 2020.

The department hasn’t announced how many retirees it hopes to rehire or whether any grant editors have agreed to move to Kansas City. The high turnover rate could stall or even jeopardize operations at the USDA; this has the potential to disrupt critical research or lead to food insecurity.

Other operations moving out of Washington D.C.

On a similar note, the U.S. Department of Interior is relocating the Bureau of Land Management headquarters to Grand Junction, Colorado.

Officials at USDA and DOI have both said moving its headquarters will place its departments closer to the majority of people and lands it serves. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said the move will save the department nearly $300 million over 15 years.

The USDA also claims the move will enhance long-term sustainability, save taxpayers money, bring resources closer to stakeholders, attract talented workers, and help it retain employees over the long run.

DOI is relocating positions to offices in Colorado, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah.

Senators Concerned about the Move and Buyouts

Several Democratic U.S. Senators have concerns about the reduced buyouts for USDA employees who plan to quit.

Senators Mark Warner, Tim Kaine, Ben Cardin, and Chris Van Hollen are putting pressure on the USDA to explain its reasoning behind the smaller buyouts.

“We are troubled by the United States Department of Agriculture’s decision to lower [Voluntary Separation Incentive Payments] by such a large amount, and we have serious concerns about the timing of this announcement, and the burden it places on federal workers who have already endured significant hardship throughout this rushed relocation process,” wrote the senators in a letter to Secretary Perdue.

The USDA has pushed back on lawmakers who have tried to prevent the move. The department claims U.S. Supreme Court rulings, laws, and determinations by the Government Accountability Office prevent Congress from limiting executive agencies’ ability to relocate to improve its operations. Siding with USDA and DOI, Republican Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa reintroduced the Strategic Withdrawal of Agencies for Meaningful Placement Act. The SWAMP Act would repeal a Truman-era statute specifying “all offices attached to the seat of government be exercised in the District of Columbia, and not elsewhere.”

The SWAMP Act would allow states, cities, and other communities the chance to compete for department headquarters. It also gives power to departments to move to areas considered advantageous for its work.

The work and role of the USDA

The USDA serves dozens of industries critical to the United States’ stability. One of its largest focuses is to develop and execute federal laws related to farming, forestry, and food.

The executive department works to assure food safety, protects natural resources through conservation, helps stabilize rural communities, promotes agricultural trade and production, and has the goal of ending hunger in the United States and around the world.

Roughly 80% of the USDA’s $141 billion budget goes toward the Food and Nutrition Service program. This includes the Food Stamp program, which a large portion of Americans depend upon.

The USDA also works to educate the public on nutrition. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program provides healthy food to over 40 million low-income and homeless people monthly.

The department also provides surplus foods to developing countries. The USDA helps farmers and food producers with crop sales both nationally and internationally.

The USDA includes 29 agencies and offices with nearly 100,000 employees who serve the American people. It has more than 4,500 locations across the country and overseas.

President Abraham Lincoln established the Independent Department of Agriculture on May 15, 1862. Lincoln called it the “people’s department.”

USDA Job Listings in Kansas City

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