Several Arkansas communities are vying to become the next home for two U.S. Department of Agriculture agencies as the department moves them out of Washington D.C.
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue recently announced that the USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) will be moving out of Washington D.C. by the end of 2019. Perdue invited communities and organizations to submit proposals for new locations for the agencies.
Since the announcement in August, the USDA has received 136 proposals from entities in 35 states, including Arkansas.
Both the Arkansas Economic Development Commission and Jonesboro/Northeast Arkansas Coalition were included on the USDA’s list of communities and organizations that expressed interest in becoming the new home of ERS and/or NIFA. The Northeast Arkansas Coalition includes the City of Jonesboro, Craighead County, Jonesboro Unlimited, Jonesboro Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Northeast Arkansas Economic Development Coalition.
The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports that four cities have submitted proposals. Along with Jonesboro, the newspaper has independently confirmed that Conway, Little Rock and North Little Rock have tossed their hats in the ring to be considered for the new locations.
Perdue says the interest from cities and states has been “overwhelming” since the announcement. “The interest from across the country has been overwhelming as localities, universities, private entities, and elected officials realize the potential for their communities in become the new home for these two agencies,” Perdue says. “It is an old saying that not all wisdom resides in Washington, D.C., but it is gratifying to see so many folks step forward wanting to prove that to be the case. We look forward to working with Ernst & Young in examining all of the proposals and selecting the new locations.”
In addition to Arkansas, the states that have expressed interest include Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, West Virginia and Wyoming.
According to Perdue, the new location(s) will be selected by January 2019.
The USDA outlined the reasons behind the move as primarily ones of expediency and cost-savings. According to a USDA press release, the agencies will be located closer to the people impacted by the two agencies, which will enable the USDA to recruit highly qualified staff. Costs are expected to be lower, as ‘taxpayers will realize significant savings on employment costs and rent.”