Media Outlets Freak Over Trump’s ‘Lockdown’ Of Ag Scientists

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The Department of Agriculture’s principal scientific research arm directed staff to “not release any public-facing documents” days after the new administration took over in an emailed memo first reported by BuzzFeed News and confirmed by The Daily Caller News Foundation.

BuzzFeed said “Scientists Have Been Put On Lockdown Under Trump,” and Quartz, a subsidiary of The Atlantic, wrote that Trump had “gagged the US Agriculture Department’s research arm from publicly sharing its work.”

In the email, sent Monday afternoon, ARS Chief of Staff Sharon Drumm said “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.”

ARS has not, however, blacked out all public information. The scientists on staff were not prohibited from sharing their work publicly or in scientific journals, only from distributing on the federal agency’s website, according to an ARS spokesperson.

“Scientific publications, released through peer reviewed professional journals are not included” in the communications moratorium, Christopher Bentley, director of communications for ARS told TheDCNF.

ARS also posted a press release on its website Monday congratulating scientist Edward Buckler on receiving the National Academy of Science’s first-ever prize for food and agricultural sciences for his work contributions to crop gene testing. The ARS Twitter account retweeted a National Academy of Science tweet about Buckler’s award.

BuzzFeed and Quora tied the moratorium on posts to the ARS work on climate change. The scientific research arm requested $19 million — on top of a budget over $1 billion — to “address climate change’s risk to agriculture by developing more climate resilient agricultural production systems” for the 2016 budget.

Just days into the new administration, Trump’s cabinet has not yet set policy for the majority of federal agencies. The USDA is being led by an interim director while former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the department, awaits confirmation from the Senate.

Reports of similar gag orders, as well as a freeze on grant and contract spending at the Environmental Protection Agency prompted reporters to ask Trump’s administration during a press conference Tuesday about the matters. (RELATED: Trump Puts A Freeze On EPA Spending)

“I don’t think its any surprise that when the administration turns over, there is review of policies,” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said.

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