Iowa hopes to land large USDA division if it leaves Washington DC

DES MOINES — Federal officials are considering a plan to move two divisions of the US Department of Agriculture out of the nation’s capitol. It could mean Iowa has a shot to become the new home to the Economic Research Service or the National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

Iowa Rural Development Council executive director Bill Menner says it would be a tremendous lift for the state to land either division, or both. “In my mind, as someone who’s involved in economic development, that makes perfect sense,” Menner says. “The reasons for the decision to want to move the agencies out of Washington D.C. not withstanding, any time you have a chance to find a good fit when you’re looking for businesses and creating jobs, you take advantage of it.”

Menner, who used to work at USDA Rural Development, says Iowa would be a good fit for both offices and the state’s in a good position to compete. “The resources that exist at Iowa State University and, to some degree, at the University of Iowa are a good fit for what these two agencies do,” Menner says. “Iowa State’s a land grant institution and they have folks who study these things and do this kind of work every day.”

He notes, it won’t be a slam-dunk for Iowa. “There would be a number of other states that would also be competitive because they have institutions similar to Iowa State and Iowa and that have strong land grant histories,” Menner says, “but Iowa certainly has to be in the running, if this indeed is going to happen.”

He says the National Animal Disease Center and Veterinary Diagnostic Lab located in Ames are a good demonstration of the fit that exists between Iowa and the USDA. He says those should be considered in any possible relocation efforts.

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