Employees of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service and National Institute of Food and Agriculture now have greater incentive to move with the agencies to Kansas City and keep their current jobs.

The American Federation of Government Employees, which represents employees at both agencies, announced Aug. 9 that it had come to an agreement with USDA to grant transitioning employees at the two agencies incentive payments equal to one month’s salary, to make up for the loss in salary that comes from moving from their higher-paying location in Washington, D.C., to the new Kansas City location.

Employees also have an extended timeline to decide whether they plan to move.

The agency initially asked for employees to respond by July 15 whether they planned to move with the agency, but said that employees could change their mind up to the report date set for Sept. 30. Some employees that declined to move already received notices of proposed removal despite that timeframe.

The union announced that all employees now have until Sept. 27 to make up their minds.

Those that do choose to move will be offered the option to telework through at least Dec. 30, with the possibility of extensions, while they make arrangements to move out to the Kansas City location.

“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,” AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. said in a news release.

“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. But we are determined to effectively represent these employees, whether they’re in Kansas City or Washington.”

Only a third of employees at the two research agencies initially said that they plan to relocate, fulfilling predictions by critics that the relocation would result in a brain drain for USDA.

Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney recently celebrated the loss of personnel as a means of “draining the swamp,” as federal employees are otherwise difficult to fire.

Jessie Bur covers federal IT and management.

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