Gag order on USDA research arm raises concerns

USDA Ordered to Stop Talking to Public

USDA Ordered to Stop Talking to Public

This includes but are not limited to news releases, fact sheets, photos, social medial content and news feeds.

Sharon Drumm, the chief of staff for USDA, stated in an email to Agriculture Research Service, USDA's research department, that starting immediately and until further notice, ARS will not release any public-facing documents.

BuzzFeed reported that the USDA pulled back the order that would have prevented scientists from publishing their research documents and findings to the public.

The USDA-wide memo, issued by the department's acting deputy administrator, Michael Young, was meant to offer guidance on "interim procedures" until a new secretary takes over USDA.

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The new administration's gag orders have stoked fears that President Trump plans to crack down on scientific research from agencies like the ARS.

Buzzfeed noted while some Agricultural Research Service work touched on sensitive subjects like pesticides and genetically modified food, its research was generally less politically charged than that conducted by other agencies, especially those focused on understanding climate change, such as the EPA.

Mr Guebert noted the USDA, like every government agency was "publicly-funded, publicly-managed, and public-serving and should be completely transparent". But at least two researchers who have in the past worked with ARS say collaboration with the agency is often essential to their work. Politico reported Department of Transportation employees received a "recommendation" on Monday not to engage on official social media accounts or publish news releases.

The communication lockdown at ARS was one of a number of restrictions issued to federal employees as President Donald Trump assumed power, including employees at the Environmental Protection Agency and the Interior Department, according to the Washington Post. The orders are expected to have a significant and immediate impact on EPA activities nationwide. "ARS values and is committed to maintaining the free flow of information between our scientists and the American public". Much of the recent research on climate science was either released by or started in the EPA, and to a lesser extent USDA, which regularly monitors soil moisture to provide farmers the latest information on crop growth and yield expectations.