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USDA agrees to incentive payments for research employees relocating to Kansas City

Employees with the U.S. Department of Agriculture who agree to move to Kansas City as part of a relocation of two research agencies out of Washington, D.C., will receive incentive pay equal to one month’s salary.

The incentive pay is meant to compensate employees who are moving to Kansas City and getting away from the higher-wage Washington, D.C., area, according to a federal labor union that negotiated the incentive pay with the USDA.

Employees at the Economic Research Service and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture will also be allowed to work remotely through Dec. 30, after initially being told they have to relocate to Kansas City by Sept. 30.

“This is certainly a positive development that could encourage more employees to relocate, but it does not make up for all the anxiety and anguish that employees have been going through since this relocation was first announced,” J. David Cox, national president of the American Federation of Government Employees, said in a news release Friday afternoon.

The USDA announced in June that it would relocate the two research agencies to Kansas City after considering proposals from 136 cities.

Local leaders cheered the USDA choice because of its potential for the region to gain more than 500 well-paying jobs from the USDA agencies. But critics of the arrangement say it’s a move meant to diminish scientific research that conflicts with federal agricultural policies, evidenced by the speed with which it sought to move employees out of their homes in Washington, D.C., to Kansas City within not quite four months.

Employees initially were given a July 15 deadline to say whether they would move to Kansas City. By that deadline, 145 workers said they would follow their jobs to Kansas City, representing nearly 37 percent of the workforce that was asked to move.

That deadline has also now been extended until Sept. 27.

While the USDA picked Kansas City, it’s not known yet where the research agencies will be located. The Star has previously reported that the Sprint Campus in Overland Park, an office building on Quality Hill in downtown Kansas City, the former City Center Square building in the central business district and offices in and near Crown Center were in consideration.

“At the end of the day, we remain convinced that this forced relocation is bad for employees, bad for the agricultural community, and bad for taxpayers,” Cox said in a statement. “But we are determined to effectively represent these employees, whether they’re in Kansas City or Washington.”

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