Local USDA researchers say gag order not affecting work

1 year 8 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
COLUMBIA - One person was killed in a crash late Saturday night off Blackfoot Road and Parkside Drive, police said.... More >>
2 hours ago Sunday, October 21 2018 Oct 21, 2018 Sunday, October 21, 2018 12:47:00 AM CDT October 21, 2018 in News
HERMANN - One person was killed and several people were injured in a crash involving a trolley, according to the... More >>
3 hours ago Saturday, October 20 2018 Oct 20, 2018 Saturday, October 20, 2018 11:57:00 PM CDT October 20, 2018 in News
(CNN) -- President Donald Trump announced Saturday that the US is pulling out of the landmark Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty... More >>
9 hours ago Saturday, October 20 2018 Oct 20, 2018 Saturday, October 20, 2018 5:11:00 PM CDT October 20, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA – Nineteen members of Missouri Task Force One returned to Boone County Fire Protection District headquarters Saturday morning after... More >>
11 hours ago Saturday, October 20 2018 Oct 20, 2018 Saturday, October 20, 2018 3:16:00 PM CDT October 20, 2018 in News
SPRINGFIELD (AP) — A man has been criminally charged days after a woman's body was found near Fellows Lake at... More >>
13 hours ago Saturday, October 20 2018 Oct 20, 2018 Saturday, October 20, 2018 1:58:08 PM CDT October 20, 2018 in News
SPRINGFIELD (AP) — A Springfield woman who killed her live-in boyfriend with a crowbar in 2017 has been sentenced to... More >>
13 hours ago Saturday, October 20 2018 Oct 20, 2018 Saturday, October 20, 2018 1:48:36 PM CDT October 20, 2018 in News
ST. LOUIS (AP) — A restored St. Louis prairie of native grasses and flowers is in bloom, but the nature... More >>
18 hours ago Saturday, October 20 2018 Oct 20, 2018 Saturday, October 20, 2018 8:50:24 AM CDT October 20, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA - Sen. Claire McCaskill spoke about health care in Columbia on Friday at Laborers Local 955, as part of... More >>
1 day ago Friday, October 19 2018 Oct 19, 2018 Friday, October 19, 2018 7:35:00 PM CDT October 19, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA - After realizing the underrepresentation of Hispanic business owners in mid-Missouri, three Hispanic professionals established a group of 12... More >>
1 day ago Friday, October 19 2018 Oct 19, 2018 Friday, October 19, 2018 5:49:00 PM CDT October 19, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA - This is the last week of the regular season and it's a cold one. Our game of... More >>
1 day ago Friday, October 19 2018 Oct 19, 2018 Friday, October 19, 2018 5:20:00 PM CDT October 19, 2018 in Friday Night Fever
COLUMBIA - Two Midwest companies issued separate food recalls this week for bacterial contamination concerns. Hy-Vee said its supplier,... More >>
1 day ago Friday, October 19 2018 Oct 19, 2018 Friday, October 19, 2018 4:53:00 PM CDT October 19, 2018 in News
CAMDEN (AP) — Toxicology tests show that a boater was drunk when he slammed into a bluff at Missouri's Lake... More >>
1 day ago Friday, October 19 2018 Oct 19, 2018 Friday, October 19, 2018 3:41:35 PM CDT October 19, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA - The Legion of Black Collegians and the FourFront Marginalized Student Council held a solidarity walk Friday to show... More >>
1 day ago Friday, October 19 2018 Oct 19, 2018 Friday, October 19, 2018 3:39:00 PM CDT October 19, 2018 in News
JEFFERSON CITY - The Missouri State Medical Association (MSMA), along with multiple medical associations, reaffirmed their opposition to the three... More >>
1 day ago Friday, October 19 2018 Oct 19, 2018 Friday, October 19, 2018 2:50:00 PM CDT October 19, 2018 in News
JEFFERSON CITY - For the fourth consecutive year, Project Homeless Connect provided services Friday for people who are experiencing homelessness... More >>
1 day ago Friday, October 19 2018 Oct 19, 2018 Friday, October 19, 2018 2:39:00 PM CDT October 19, 2018 in News
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The Mega Millions jackpot has soared to an estimated $1 billion, as the second-largest lottery... More >>
1 day ago Friday, October 19 2018 Oct 19, 2018 Friday, October 19, 2018 12:10:00 PM CDT October 19, 2018 in News
JEFFERSON CITY - Police want the public's help finding a man who allegedly ran from a traffic stop after hurting... More >>
1 day ago Friday, October 19 2018 Oct 19, 2018 Friday, October 19, 2018 11:42:00 AM CDT October 19, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA - Two MU residence halls and an atrium were officially dedicated on Friday honoring three former MU students. Lucile... More >>
1 day ago Friday, October 19 2018 Oct 19, 2018 Friday, October 19, 2018 10:09:00 AM CDT October 19, 2018 in News
Columbia, MO
Broken Clouds 34°
3am 35°
4am 34°
5am 33°
6am 32°