Uncertainty hovers over USDA press policy - FreshFruitPortal.com

Uncertainty hovers over USDA press policy

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Uncertainty hovers over USDA press policy

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has sought to allay concerns its scientists would be prevented from communicating with the media about their findings, The Washington Post reported. 

Employees of the entity's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) were reportedly ordered on Monday to cease publication of "public-facing" documents and news releases, raising concerns from media outlets that the Trump administration wanted to restrict communication.

According to the publication, ARS chief Sharon Drumm wrote an email to all employees stating: “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."

It is not clear whether this guidance was intended to be temporary or permanent. 

The ARS is an important source of technical and scientific developments relating to the U.S. produce industry. The USDA says it "conducts research to develop and transfer solutions to agricultural problems of high national priority".

Department officials said the new rules were not issued at other USDA offices, The Washington Post reported, but a department-wide memo by the organization's acting deputy administrator, Michael Young, was intended to offer guidance on “interim procedures” until a new secretary takes over the USDA.

USDA officials reportedly aimed to clarify the ARS memo on Tuesday afternoon, after intense public scrutiny, stating that the ARS had not “blacked out public information”. They added peer-reviewed scientific journals had not been banned.

Such an order would have conflicted with established scientific integrity standards and previous media guidance “encouraging, but not requiring, USDA scientists to communicate with the media about their scientific findings," the statement reportedly said.

During a phone call with reporters on Tuesday evening, Young reportedly emphasized that the guidance did not place a blanket freeze on press releases or prohibit food safety announcements.

“The ARS guidance was not reviewed by me. I would not have put that kind of guidance out. My guidance has to do with policy-related announcement and that sort of thing,” Young reportedly said. 

“I had my memo drafted before the ARS memo, I was not a part of it.”

Photo: www.shutterstock.com


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