Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said USDA developed evaluation criteria for interested parties who wish to house the Economic Research Service (ERS) and the National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA). Some 136 parties in 35 states are vying for either agency. USDA has retained Ernst & Young, a real estate advisory service to help in relocation efforts. The department will apply a set of guiding principles, including locations meeting USDA travel requirements, communities specific labor force statistics, and locations with work hours most compatible with all USDA office schedules. These guidelines were based on the Expressions of Interest submitted in response to the USDA Notice of Request for Expression of Interest for Potential Sites for Headquarters Office Locations between August 15, 2018 and extended through October 15, 2018. In August 2018, Perdue announced most of ERS and NIFA personnel would be moving outside the beltway by the end of 2019.