After beating out 135 other applicants, Kansas City is slated to become the new home to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service (ERS) and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). The move will bring about 550 jobs to the Kansas City region.
Both Kansas City and St. Louis made strong bids, with St. Louis making the shortlist of three alternate sites.
When Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced the move, he praised the Kansas City area for its affordable housing, easy commutes and extraordinary living conditions.
“The Kansas City region has proven itself to be hub for all things agriculture and is a booming city in America’s heartland,” he said.
USDA’s cost-benefit analysis of the move found an estimated $300 million savings over the course of a 15-year lease. These savings would mainly come from reduced rental and employment costs. The money saved will go into funding for research on issues affecting rural areas and farmers.
More than 93% of NIFA’s positions and 77% of ERS’s positions will relocate to Kansas City. The move will be phased in, with initial transfers this summer and the entire move completed by this fall. Employees will receive moving assistance, and all will have an opportunity to continue their employment in the new location.
The 2019 group of MFA Ag Experience Apprentices started their internship May 20 with an orientation at the home office in Columbia, and they will complete their 12-week program on Aug. 9. The interns work with MFA Incorporated and its members in areas that match their career objectives. As trusted employees, the students have access to the same technology resources, events and programs that other full-time employees in similar positions do. Students are challenged to apply their classroom knowledge and previous work experience in real-world situations affecting business. To be eligible for this program, students must be pursuing a bachelor’s degree at an accredited college/university, be a full-time student in good standing with a grade point average above 2.75 and have completed their sophomore year of college. At the conclusion of the program, students give a presentation of what they learned throughout the summer to senior-level managers. Students who perform well during the program may receive an offer to return to MFA the following summer or work part-time throughout the school year.
As longtime members of the Columbia, Mo., community, leaders from MFA Incorporated and MFA Oil Company were on hand Saturday, July 13, at the dedication of the city’s new Agriculture Park. The MFA Foundation supported the project.
The dedication marked the completion of the project’s first phase, which includes the University of Missouri Health Care Pavilion, a parking lot, playground, walking trail and supporting infrastructure. A second phase of construction, which would add an event center, a kitchen and more stalls for vendors at the pavilion, will go forward as funding allows.
Speaking on behalf of the foundation, MFA Incorporated President and CEO Ernie Verslues said that throughout its history, MFA’s mission has been to provide farming and ranching solutions that contribute to the success of its member-owners as well as their communities. Part of that mission includes member and community education.
“We’ve also been active in educating consumers on modern farming practices and the safety of our food supply,” said Verslues. “This is a growing challenge as each generation is further removed from the farm. We are proud to lend a helping hand in growing our community and wish the park great success in its mission.”
Funded by a private and public partnership, the first phase of the project cost $3.75 million and includes $495,000 from MU Health Care for sponsorship and naming rights of the pavilion for 10 years. The site is located on 10 acres of previously unused city-owned space in Clary-Shy Park, where the Boone County Fairgrounds were located between 1948 and 1991. The farmers market began operating there in 1980.
The Columbia Agriculture Park facilities are about half completed, according to project officials. The pavilion, which includes a permanent roof over the vendor area, is about one-third finished. Still to be built are a barn and greenhouse for the urban agriculture center, a small teaching classroom and demonstration gardens. The harvests will go to the Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri. The project will total around $8 million at completion, which is expected to be in 2021.
Learn more about the park online at https://buildthistown.org/