KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced it has signed a lease for permanent office space at an office building in downtown Kansas City, Missouri, for two of its research agencies.

Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said in a news release Thursday that signing the lease is an important next step for the agencies' efficiency, effectiveness and service to customers.

The USDA announced plans in June to move roughly 550 employees of the Economic Research Service and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture by the end of September to the Kansas City area.

The announcement of the new office space comes amid charges from a federal employees union that the move has left them critically understaffed, saying it will take years to hire replacements for the highly specialized positions.

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