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article imageOp-Ed: USDA ordered to stop talking to the public

By Karen Graham     Jan 24, 2017 in Politics
It looks like the Trump administration has succeeded in scaring the pants off the American public today, issuing gag orders for the EPA and now the Department of Agriculture while the CDC is so scared they canceled a climate change summit.
This latest gag order is probably not the last we will be hearing as Trump attempts to stop all governmental agencies from giving information to the public. From now on, all we will hear is what the White House allows us to be privy to, although we won't know how long this will last.
The USDA's Agricultural Research Service received an email Monday morning from their chief-of-staff telling them to not talk to the public about their work. The email was sent to BuzzFeed by an unnamed source and was written by Sharon Drumm, chief of staff for ARS: “Starting immediately and until further notice, ARS will not release any public-facing documents. This includes, but is not limited to, news releases, photos, fact sheets, news feeds, and social media content."
Actually, the very last tweet sent from the USDA's Twitter account was sent on January 19, the day before Trump took office. But the terse memo was met with confusion by many scientists who wanted to know if the memo also meant there was a halt to publishing scientific papers.
One of the agency's regional directors told them they could publish papers in academic journals or present them at conferences but that "all media interviews must be approved by the office of communications in Washington."
And Gizmodo has pointed out that The Freedom of Information Act requires the USDA to make almost all documents available to anyone requesting said information and the gag order surely stands in opposition to the act. Not only that, but research done by ARS scientists is funded by the tax-paying public, and we are now barred from seeing that research.
So, should we be concerned about these new gag orders on our scientific community? You better be concerned. The new president is preventing any news of a scientific nature being seen or read by the public. This includes news on oil spills, drinking water contamination, pesticide use, GMOs, well, you get the picture.
The fact that these actions are happening at a rapid pace is frightening to many people and is causing anxiety and unrest in a nation Donald Trump says he wants to bring together. Well, he is widening the chasm that is splitting us apart.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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