Major Problems Emerge On Media ‘Blackout’ Story At Ag Dept

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Thomas Phippen Associate Editor
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A reported media “blackout” at the Department of Agriculture (USDA) in the early days of President Donald Trump’s administration turned out to be an exaggeration of a mistake.

The blackout is really nothing of the kind, only effected a small department at the agency, did not come from Trump’s team, and has since been disavowed by the USDA. A spokesperson at the department in question reached out to The Daily Caller News Foundation Tuesday.

Following a report from BuzzFeed News about a lockdown of USDA scientists within the single department of the federal agency of 90,000, multiple outlets reported that Trump’s administration was silencing agencies from speaking to the public. (RELATED: Media Outlets Freak Over Trump’s ‘Lockdown’ Of Ag Scientists)

An official at the Agriculture Research Service (ARS), the chief research division at USDA, emailed staff saying that the department would “not publicly release” information on its website or post to social media for the foreseeable future. The moratorium on communication did not apply to research published in non-government scientific studies.

The email itself was not approved by the USDA, and “was released without Departmental direction, and prior to Departmental guidance being issued,” a USDA spokesman told Reuters in a statement Tuesday. ARS rescinded the guidance Tuesday evening, BuzzFeed News reports.

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

The research arm of USDA posted a story Wednesday on its public website about a new smartphone app to help farmers manage land.

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

The USDA, like most federal agencies, is still in transition, awaiting the confirmation of a cabinet secretary to begin implementing new policy. Trump nominated former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue Jan. 19, hours before taking the oath of office to become president. Perdue awaits confirmation hearings from the Senate Committee on Agriculture.

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