Some North Dakotans are looking to invite the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to relocate their research offices to Fargo. This would bring about hundreds of jobs for the state. The USDA said they would like to have these research offices farmed out by 2019.
Sen. John Hoeven announced that the Greater Fargo-Moorhead Economic Development Corporation has submitted an application to host the location. The corporation filed an application for both the Economic Research Service (ERS), which employs 330 people, and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), which employs 360.
The USDA hopes that by de-centralizing the research offices it can boost economic prospects and widen the horizon of researchers.
Congressman Steny Hoyer of Maryland and Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton of Washington D.C. sent a letter to the USDA Inspector General, calling for an investigation into the planned move.
In the letter, Hoyer and Norton wrote: “Essential questions regarding the legality of USDA’s proposal, the rationale for the potential move and the process used to develop this proposal remain unanswered, and we ask that you conduct a detailed analysis of each of these issues.”
The two cited a section of the 2018 Consolidated Appropriations Act, which would require the USDA to ask the House and Senate Appropriations Committees and receive approval before reallocating the funds.
Hoyer and Norton also questioned whether the USDA did its homework on the costs and benefits before moving forward with the idea. Specifically, they expressed worry of the hundreds of employees who may quit if relocated.
The plan has also received criticism from experts. A 1,000-signature petition with signatures from economists and scientists denouncing the decision was sent to Washington. The petitioners are concerned that this plan would harm the division between policy making and scientific research.
In an op-ed for Agri-Pulse, Susan Offutt wrote, “The Department’s justification for the changes hinges on assertions of cost savings and improved customer service, but little evidence has been offered in support.”
For North Dakota, Hoeven said there will be “very stiff competition” for the research offices. Hoeven also said he knows North Dakota can be competitive.
Hoeven said NDSU’s prestige in the area of agricultural research is a big reason why the F-M area can “compete with anybody.”
According to information from the senator’s office, everyone from the Fargo Moorhead West Fargo Chamber of Commerce to North Dakota State have been involved in the effort to bring the research offices to Fargo.
“The priority is doing the best job possible for farmers and ranchers,” Hoeven said. These offices could be a great way to do this.