It won’t solve all of the problems facing them, but moving the Economic Research Service and National Institute of Food and Agriculture to Kansas City will bring them closer to farmers and ranchers and farther away from Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C., is a nice town. It has great museums, restaurants, parks and other entertainment, such as Congress and the White House.
We’re kidding, of course, but many of the residents of the nation’s capital are snobs. They consider anyone without a downtown address to be rubes. Only they, the elected and unelected ruling class, are important enough to push and pull the levers of government.
Some folks honestly believe that any location outside the Beltway around Washington, D.C., is unworthy of their presence. They talk as though they are princes and princesses, and the only way to maintain their power is to stay close to the king and his court.
That was true in the Middle Ages, but in the 21st century, when anyone can pick up a smart phone and get in touch with anyone else instantaneously, it just doesn’t make sense to remain sequestered from the public in Washington, D.C. That’s one of the reasons Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue proposed moving ERS and NIFA. He sought proposals from across the nation, and 136 communities responded. In the Northwest, only the Tri-Cities made a bid. In California, five cities made bids.
Kansas City emerged as the winner, offering $26 million in incentives. Perdue estimates the agencies will save $20 million a year in rent alone.
Considerable concern has been voiced about the idea of moving ERS and NIFA to Kansas City. Critics say the agencies will lose valuable employees who are unwilling to move. They also say Perdue could have found a cheaper spot for the agencies in Washington, D.C., without moving halfway across the country.
Maybe. Everything is more expensive in Washington. The average home price in the Washington Metro area is $801,674, according to the website bankrate.com. In the Kansas City Metro area, the average home price is $291,594. No doubt other expenses compare similarly.
But the bottom line isn’t so much about finances. It’s about agencies moving closer to the people they serve. Somewhere along the line, folks in Washington, D.C., got the idea that Americans work for the government. In the kingdom of Washington, D.C., taxpayers have the smallest voice. A trip to Washington, D.C., is comparable to a pilgrimage to kiss the rings of the overlords.
That, of course, is exactly backward from how it should be. People who work in government should be close to their bosses, the taxpayers who pay their salaries. They shouldn’t recoil at the thought of living outside Washington, D.C., they should welcome it.
And, as is always the case in Washington, D.C., they see political motives in everything the current administration does.
According to the head of the union that represents some of the folks at ERS and NIFA, the move is “little more than a backdoor way to slash the workforce and silence the parts of the agencies’ research that the administration views as inconvenient.”
That statement is proof that politics has overtaken everything else, including common sense.
Moving ERS and NIFA to Kansas City is a good deal for the agencies, the taxpayers and, most importantly, U.S. farmers and ranchers.