Local USDA researchers say gag order not affecting work

1 year 2 months 3 weeks ago Wednesday, January 25 2017 Jan 25, 2017 Wednesday, January 25, 2017 2:39:00 PM CST January 25, 2017 in News
By: Nora Faris, KOMU 8 Reporter
loading

COLUMBIA - Employees of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service office in Columbia said work was "business as usual" on Wednesday. Scientists are still conducting cutting-edge plant and botanical studies—part of their mission as employees of the USDA's research and development branch.

Earlier this week, reports of a gag order imposed by USDA-ARS on its employees started cropping up, drawing national attention and citizen outrage.

On Monday, Sharon Drumm, ARS chief of staff, distributed the following email directive to USDA-ARS employees: "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." 

Mel Oliver, research leader for the ARS Plant Genetics Research Unit in Columbia, said he received the email.

He also said he wasn't concerned about it.

Oliver said he, like other employees of ARS, interpreted the directive for what it was: a standard procedure to follow until the department transitions to new leadership.

"We still carry on our work. We still publish our research results. We still give talks on our research. There's no change in that at all," Oliver said. "It's usually when we're making some report about the state of agriculture or on larger issues that we tend to be a little cautious."

Dr. Sandra Davidson, adjunct professor at the MU School of Law, said agencies may legally limit the communications activities of employees when those communications represent the agency. She said it would be natural to limit public communication during a transition period to ensure consistency within the agency.

As of Wednesday, USDA-ARS resumed activity on social media, adding content on its Twitter page after a several-day lull.

Columbia is home to three divisions of USDA-ARS: the Biological Control of Insects Research unit, Cropping Systems and Water Quality Research unit and Oliver's Plant Genetic Research unit. Housed within the University of Missouri's Columbia campus, these publicly funded research units develop and publish studies aimed at improving agricultural practices.

Patrick Westhoff, director of the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute (FAPRI) at MU, said interactions between FAPRI and USDA-ARS researchers have not been noticeably affected. FAPRI conducts economic analyses on agricultural and commodity policies. 

"I have not really noticed any effects so far. The real question is how policies like this might affect the way federal agencies do business in the longer term," Westhoff said.

Westhoff said the transition process may be longer for USDA than for other federal agencies.

Secretary of Agriculture was the last Cabinet position selected by President Donald Trump. Trump appointed former Georgia governor Sonny Perdue to the post last week. Perdue must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate before assuming his formal position at USDA.  

Westhoff said Perdue's confirmation hearings will not occur until at least February, lengthening the transition period for USDA and potentially placing the department behind in budget discussions.

 

 

 

 

More News

Grid
List
JEFFERSON CITY (AP) — Missouri legislators approved numerous changes Thursday to local elections, including allowing voters to request absentee ballots... More >>
1 hour ago Saturday, April 21 2018 Apr 21, 2018 Saturday, April 21, 2018 5:27:13 AM CDT April 21, 2018 in News
MILLER COUNTY - A 26-year-old Miller County sheriff's deputy died Friday night after colliding head-on with another vehicle on Highway... More >>
8 hours ago Friday, April 20 2018 Apr 20, 2018 Friday, April 20, 2018 10:05:00 PM CDT April 20, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA- Retailer Sears will close its Columbia Mall store this summer because the location has become unprofitable. Sears Director... More >>
9 hours ago Friday, April 20 2018 Apr 20, 2018 Friday, April 20, 2018 8:46:00 PM CDT April 20, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA- A local non-profit organization, Columbia Access Television, hosted a 24-hour film contest that started Friday at 5:30 pm. ... More >>
11 hours ago Friday, April 20 2018 Apr 20, 2018 Friday, April 20, 2018 7:13:00 PM CDT April 20, 2018 in News
LAKE OZARK - Community members are coming together to help a family who lost their children in a fire get... More >>
11 hours ago Friday, April 20 2018 Apr 20, 2018 Friday, April 20, 2018 7:10:00 PM CDT April 20, 2018 in News
ST. LOUIS - Gov. Eric Greitens is remaining defiant in the face of a new felony charge. On... More >>
13 hours ago Friday, April 20 2018 Apr 20, 2018 Friday, April 20, 2018 5:45:00 PM CDT April 20, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA - Children filled school gymnasiums across Columbia for the second day of the Unbound Book Festival. The festival showcases... More >>
15 hours ago Friday, April 20 2018 Apr 20, 2018 Friday, April 20, 2018 3:42:00 PM CDT April 20, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA - April 20 marks the day of the Columbine school shooting, which claimed 13 lives. The Columbia Missouri... More >>
15 hours ago Friday, April 20 2018 Apr 20, 2018 Friday, April 20, 2018 3:26:00 PM CDT April 20, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA - A potential fire station project on an annexed lot in southwest Columbia could lead to quicker response times... More >>
15 hours ago Friday, April 20 2018 Apr 20, 2018 Friday, April 20, 2018 3:21:00 PM CDT April 20, 2018 in News
JEFFERSON CITY - After the deadly fire in Lake Ozark, officials from the Division of Fire Safety are working to... More >>
15 hours ago Friday, April 20 2018 Apr 20, 2018 Friday, April 20, 2018 3:01:00 PM CDT April 20, 2018 in News
JEFFERSON CITY - For 13 years, Rhonda Harper has been at the helm of Lincoln University's "Marching Musical Storm." ... More >>
16 hours ago Friday, April 20 2018 Apr 20, 2018 Friday, April 20, 2018 2:26:00 PM CDT April 20, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA - It’s been a little more than two months since the Stoneman Douglas school shooting in Parkland, Fla., and... More >>
16 hours ago Friday, April 20 2018 Apr 20, 2018 Friday, April 20, 2018 2:04:00 PM CDT April 20, 2018 in News
ST. LOUIS (AP) — Authorities say a suburban St. Louis police officer fired at a would-be robber about four weeks... More >>
17 hours ago Friday, April 20 2018 Apr 20, 2018 Friday, April 20, 2018 1:35:11 PM CDT April 20, 2018 in News
JEFFERSON CITY (AP) — Lab tests on an unknown substance sent to a Missouri lawmaker suggest it was pesticide.... More >>
17 hours ago Friday, April 20 2018 Apr 20, 2018 Friday, April 20, 2018 1:31:19 PM CDT April 20, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA- Slimy fish, boat rides, hiking and tasty leaves are a few things 4th grade students experienced on Friday. ... More >>
17 hours ago Friday, April 20 2018 Apr 20, 2018 Friday, April 20, 2018 12:59:00 PM CDT April 20, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA - Assistant Principal Katie Helfer said it has been a long time coming, but Our Lady of Lourdes Interparish... More >>
18 hours ago Friday, April 20 2018 Apr 20, 2018 Friday, April 20, 2018 12:21:00 PM CDT April 20, 2018 in Top Stories
LEE'S SUMMIT (AP) — Lee's Summit police are looking for a suspect after a woman was fatally shot inside... More >>
19 hours ago Friday, April 20 2018 Apr 20, 2018 Friday, April 20, 2018 10:57:58 AM CDT April 20, 2018 in News
CLARKSBURG - Deputies arrested a man Wednesday after they said they found marijuana, drug paraphernalia and cocaine. Deputies went... More >>
19 hours ago Friday, April 20 2018 Apr 20, 2018 Friday, April 20, 2018 10:54:00 AM CDT April 20, 2018 in News
Columbia, MO
Broken Clouds 46°
7am 46°
8am 49°
9am 52°
10am 54°