Kansas City is one of three finalists to be the new home for a couple of USDA agencies. That’s very good news. The agencies contain the world’s leading researchers on agriculture, and Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue has decided that the agencies ought to be closer to both the producers and consumers of that research. The Secretary is absolutely right, and it’s clear to this impartial observer that Kansas City is the ideal location for the Economic Research Service and the National Institute for Food and Agriculture.
Ok, so perhaps I’m not totally impartial. However, I recently had the chance to hear Governor Mike Parson and Director of Agriculture Chris Chinn make the case for Kansas City to a group of USDA officials who will advise the Secretary on the final location. They did a wonderful job of highlighting why Kansas City is not only the logical choice, but in most ways the only choice for a new home for the agencies.
There are five land-grant universities with strong agricultural research and teaching programs within a half-day’s drive of Kansas City. KC has some of the leading plant science researchers in the world. The expertise in the I-70 plant science corridor, including the University of Missouri and the Danforth Center in St. Louis, is unrivaled anywhere. Over 300 animal health companies are doing groundbreaking work in the Kansas City animal health corridor.
Kansas City is a great place to live, a cultural center for the Midwest, and home of the best barbecue in the country, with all the amenities of any urban area but only minutes from beautiful and productive farmland. Our universities graduate talented students who would love to do research but have no interest in spending a third of their lives commuting in the Washington, D.C. area.
Critics of the move have concentrated on the advantages the agencies have with their location in Washington, making the point that the agencies benefit from close proximity to the best and the brightest who reside and work in our nation’s capital. To hear them talk, you’d think that everybody inside the Beltway is a genius, solving the world’s problems in a climate of wisdom made possible only by the physical proximity to other really smart people.
This may be true, but it is not readily evident to people who live outside the Beltway. In fact, I’m willing to admit that Washington D.C. should be full of wisdom, because very little of that wisdom escapes to the rest of the country. Smart people are everywhere, and agriculture is done in the Midwest. The move of the two agencies should happen quickly, and their destination should be Kansas City.