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USDA to Move Economic Research Service Out of Washington in Revamp

CHICAGO, Aug 9 (Reuters) - The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) said on Thursday it was reorganizing its Economic Research Service division, which provides data used to make policy decisions, and moving employees out of the nation’s capital.

The division will become part of the USDA’s Office of the Chief Economist in an ongoing revamp, the USDA said in a statement.

Relocating staff out of the Washington area will help the government recruit employees with better training in agriculture, according to the USDA. The agency said the move would also reduce employment and rent costs.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue has been looking for ways to reorganize his department since taking the reins in April 2017. He has created an office of the undersecretary for trade and changed the way the department releases market sensitive reports on changes to supply and demand.

New locations for Economic Research Service offices have not been determined, but the move is expected to be completed by the end of 2019.

The USDA did not specify how many workers would be affected but budget documents showed the Economic Research Service had 329 employees in September 2016. It said none of the division’s employees would be fired but added that any employee who wanted to remain with the service would have to move.

The USDA is looking into possibly offering early retirement or separation incentive payments to affected employees.

In May 2017, the Trump administration proposed $46.54 billion in cuts to federal government funding for the agriculture sector over the next 10 years. Perdue said at the time that the cuts could lead to the elimination of 5,263 jobs at the department, or about 5% of its workforce. (Reporting by Mark Weinraub; editing by Richard Chang)

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