The first of hundreds of experts at the USDA who are losing their jobs rather than rapidly relocating from Washington D.C. to Kansas City were set to begin receiving termination notices Wednesday.
Economists, researchers and other employees at the two agencies affected by the relocation, the Economic Research Service (ERS) and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), first heard last August that USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue was exploring a move.
A Tuesday email from the USDA obtained by TPM set Aug. 7 as the date the notices would begin going out to USDA employees.
“You declined the offer of relocation with the understanding that you would be separated,” read a draft of the termination notice also obtained by TPM.
In June, Perdue announced Kansas City as the selected relocation site. Employees were given a month to tell the USDA whether they wanted to move or be fired. The relocation will be finalized at the end of September, when all affected employees are expected to report to Kansas City.
As TPM reported Tuesday, White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney revealed a previously unspoken motivation for the move in a speech over the weekend: thinning the herd.
“It’s nearly impossible to fire a federal worker,” he told the crowd at a Republican fundraising gala in South Carolina. “But by simply saying to people, you know what, we’re going to take you outside the bubble, outside the beltway, outside this liberal haven of Washington, D.C. and move you out into the real part of the country, they quit.”
“What a wonderful way to streamline government, and do what we haven’t been able to do for a long time,” Mulvaney quipped.
Initial bipartisan concern about the relocation — both over the massive brain drain it would cause and the removal of key congressional information sources from the capital — eventually melted away as Republicans sided with the Trump administration.
For many employees, especially more experienced USDA staffers with roots and families in the D.C. area, or those with medical conditions that precluded switching doctors, moving wasn’t an option.
Read the draft termination letter below: