Policy Update – NIFA Relocation

October 2019 Washington Update – Prepared by Lewis-Burke Associates, LLC for the American Society of Plant Biologists

Employees of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and Economic Research Service (ERS) have begun work in Kansas City, with the first report-to-work date occurring on September 30.  Although the agencies have begun to hire new employees in Kansas City, staff attrition levels have slowed the release of funds for competitive research grants at NIFA and stalled the release of at least 38 publications by ERS.

To mitigate staff losses, the Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced that it will push back the report dates for many employees to December 9, 2019, for ERS and March 30, 2020, for NIFA “to better support the missions of the agencies”.  These later report dates serve to delay the timeline over which some employees who have chosen to leave the agency will see the end of their contracts, a stopgap measure that is intended to slow staff attrition. This change presents several complications for those employees who have decided not to relocate, both in terms of how long they will continue to work for their agencies and how their Voluntary Separation Incentive Payments (VSIPs) are distributed.  In short, if employees opt to leave before their revised report dates, their VSIPs may not be awarded.

The NIFA and ERS relocation will continue to be the subject of the appropriations debate because the current House and the Senate FY 2020 funding bills include competing provisions on the relocation – the House prohibiting it, and the Senate providing $9.5 million in support. 

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