Local USDA researchers say gag order not affecting work

6 months 2 weeks 6 days 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
COLUMBIA - KOMU 8 News sat down Wednesday with University of Missouri political science professor Cooper Drury to get an... More >>
2 hours ago Wednesday, August 16 2017 Aug 16, 2017 Wednesday, August 16, 2017 8:36:00 PM CDT August 16, 2017 in News
SEDALIA - The total solar eclipse will attract huge crowds to mid-Missouri, but the last time there was a massive... More >>
3 hours ago Wednesday, August 16 2017 Aug 16, 2017 Wednesday, August 16, 2017 7:35:00 PM CDT August 16, 2017 in News
COLUMBIA - Police released the results of an autopsy investigation following the death of a 4-year-old boy in May, ruling... More >>
6 hours ago Wednesday, August 16 2017 Aug 16, 2017 Wednesday, August 16, 2017 4:15:00 PM CDT August 16, 2017 in Continuous News
COLUMBIA - Local healthcare providers and state representatives met at a town hall Wednesday to discuss fallout from Gov. Eric... More >>
7 hours ago Wednesday, August 16 2017 Aug 16, 2017 Wednesday, August 16, 2017 3:58:00 PM CDT August 16, 2017 in News
COLUMBIA – Ameren Missouri looked to educate the Columbia Fire Department about natural gas and how to find signs of... More >>
7 hours ago Wednesday, August 16 2017 Aug 16, 2017 Wednesday, August 16, 2017 3:18:00 PM CDT August 16, 2017 in News
JEFFERSON CITY - Federal prosecutors announced Wednesday a Columbia man pleaded guilty for his role in a plan to smuggle... More >>
7 hours ago Wednesday, August 16 2017 Aug 16, 2017 Wednesday, August 16, 2017 3:10:40 PM CDT August 16, 2017 in News
COLUMBIA - Several of Missouri's legislators responded Wednesday to the violence from Charlottesville over the weekend. KOMU 8 News... More >>
9 hours ago Wednesday, August 16 2017 Aug 16, 2017 Wednesday, August 16, 2017 1:24:00 PM CDT August 16, 2017 in News
ST. LOUIS (AP) — The nation's largest pharmacy benefit manager will soon limit the number and strength of opioid... More >>
9 hours ago Wednesday, August 16 2017 Aug 16, 2017 Wednesday, August 16, 2017 1:15:51 PM CDT August 16, 2017 in News
LADDONIA - Water issues have recently erupted for the around 500 residents of the small town of Laddonia in... More >>
10 hours ago Wednesday, August 16 2017 Aug 16, 2017 Wednesday, August 16, 2017 1:01:00 PM CDT August 16, 2017 in News
ST. LOUIS (AP) — A black firefighters organization has settled its 2015 lawsuit against the city of St. Louis over... More >>
10 hours ago Wednesday, August 16 2017 Aug 16, 2017 Wednesday, August 16, 2017 12:06:55 PM CDT August 16, 2017 in News
JEFFERSON CITY – The Missouri Public Service Commission denied grant approval of the Grain Belt Express Clean Line that would... More >>
11 hours ago Wednesday, August 16 2017 Aug 16, 2017 Wednesday, August 16, 2017 11:35:00 AM CDT August 16, 2017 in News
COLUMBIA - Policies for prep sports in Missouri are among the safest in the country, according to a new report... More >>
11 hours ago Wednesday, August 16 2017 Aug 16, 2017 Wednesday, August 16, 2017 11:05:00 AM CDT August 16, 2017 in Continuous News
CREVE COEUR (AP) — With his suburban St. Louis meeting with the Israeli ambassador as a backdrop, Missouri's first Jewish... More >>
12 hours ago Wednesday, August 16 2017 Aug 16, 2017 Wednesday, August 16, 2017 10:57:00 AM CDT August 16, 2017 in News
FULTON - The President of William Woods University announced Wednesday that the university's main campus in Fulton will be closed... More >>
12 hours ago Wednesday, August 16 2017 Aug 16, 2017 Wednesday, August 16, 2017 10:40:00 AM CDT August 16, 2017 in Eclipse Impact
COLUMBIA - Police officers responded to a report of a shooting on Greensboro Drive around 11:30 p.m. Tuesday. Officers... More >>
12 hours ago Wednesday, August 16 2017 Aug 16, 2017 Wednesday, August 16, 2017 10:18:00 AM CDT August 16, 2017 in News
COLUMBIA — Two organizations will host a town hall on Wednesday to discuss the impacts of Gov. Eric Greitens' veto... More >>
12 hours ago Wednesday, August 16 2017 Aug 16, 2017 Wednesday, August 16, 2017 10:10:00 AM CDT August 16, 2017 in News
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri Treasurer Eric Schmitt says he's backing fellow Republican Attorney General Josh Hawley to run... More >>
13 hours ago Wednesday, August 16 2017 Aug 16, 2017 Wednesday, August 16, 2017 9:41:00 AM CDT August 16, 2017 in News
ST. LOUIS (AP) — Authorities say a woman has been arrested on charges of embezzling more than $2 million while... More >>
13 hours ago Wednesday, August 16 2017 Aug 16, 2017 Wednesday, August 16, 2017 9:25:45 AM CDT August 16, 2017 in News
Columbia, MO
Broken Clouds 72°
11pm 71°
12am 75°
1am 73°
2am 73°

Select a station to view its upcoming schedule:

Coming Up Next

10:35p
The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon
11:37p
Late Night with Seth Meyers
12:37a
Last Call with Carson Daly
10:30p
The King of Queens
11:00p
Rules of Engagement
11:30p
Rules of Engagement

Tonight's Schedule

7:00p
America's Got Talent
8:00p
Marlon
8:30p
Marlon
9:00p
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
7:00p
Arrow
8:00p
Supernatural
9:00p
KOMU 8 News @ Nine on The CW
9:30p
Seinfeld