USDA plans could be lift for Trumbull

Now that the partial government shutdown has ended — hopefully not just for the short term — the process of searching for a new, decentralized home for two branches of the U.S. Department of Agriculture should get back underway in earnest.

The process had been put on hold during the government shutdown, according to a spokeswoman for U.S. Rep. Dave Joyce, R-Bainbridge, when the USDA was reviewing 136 expressions of interest in 35 different states and preparing to release its “short list.”

Each site is hoping, of course, to welcome the headquarters of the department’s Economic Research Service or the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, or both, to their communities. Ohio had submitted 10 sites for consideration. And of those, at least eight are nearby in northeast Ohio — including two in Trumbull County.

Joyce has said bringing the headquarters out of Washington would be good for both the agency and his district, which includes northern Trumbull County.

Still, competition is stiff. States with the most sites submitted for consideration are Virginia with 18, Maryland and Illinois with 13, Ohio with 10 and California and Missouri with six.

Locally, the Cafaro Company submitted a site in Warren. The Western Reserve Port Authority, Warren and Howland also submitted a site for consideration at the Old Avalon Golf Course, owned by the city of Warren.

We are waiting with great hope to see if Trumbull County will land on that short list. The move could mean 360 jobs for the NIFA facility, or about 260 for the ERS facility. Of course, existing D.C.-area employees would be permitted to move with the offices, keeping the same rate of pay. Economically speaking, that should not be viewed as a bad thing, considering the amount of income such a move would inject into the market.

It should be noted that of the local sites, the Old Avalon Golf Course site is located just across the street from the Avalon Inn and Resort — a large resort owned and operated by Ron Klingle, a member of the port authority board. While Klingle doesn’t technically have interest in the selection of that property, because of potential benefits his business would stand to enjoy, we urge him to do the right thing and step away from any discussions or action taken by the port authority in support of selection of the Old Avalon property. Any involvement on his part certainly would paint a picture of possible impropriety.

Other nearby suggested locations include: a site in Akron; a submission by the Growth Partnership for Ashtabula County; one from the Geauga County Department of Development; one each from the villages of Madison and Middlefield; a site by the Portage Development Board; and one by the city of Twinsburg.

Moving the headquarters out of Washington would put the agency closer to the region of the country that focuses on agriculture. It also would be a logical way to attract and retain staff in agriculture and put them near universities offering programs that focus on the industry. That could be why more than 90 percent of USDA’s approximately 108,000 employees already work outside the nation’s capital region.

Following suit by moving the headquarters out of Washington is the right thing to do. Moving it to Trumbull County would be even better.