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26 January 2017, 12:43 | Candice Butler
Op-Ed As Trump tightens reigns USDA ordered to not talk to public
However, just yesterday Gizmodo reported that the Trump Administration froze all EPA grants and told staffers not to speak with the public.
According to an email sent Monday morning and obtained by BuzzFeed News, the department told staff - including some 2,000 scientists - at the agency's main in-house research arm, the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), to stop communicating with the public about taxpayer-funded work.
The communication lockdown at ARS was one of a number of restrictions issued to federal employees as President Donald Trump assumed power, including employees at the Environmental Protection Agency and the Interior Department, according to the Washington Post. "This includes, but is not limited to, news releases, photos, fact sheets, news feeds, and social media content".
Reuters reported that the USDA's acting deputy secretary, Michael Young, sent out a memo that asks its department heads to "review their websites, blog posts and other social media and, consistent with direction you will receive from the Office of Communication, remove references to policy priorities and initiatives of the previous Administration". This gag order operated in the same vein as Trump's attempts to silence the EPA, National Park Service and Department of Transportation and Department of Health and Human Services. The EPA had its grants frozen and is now fighting to keep its pages on climate change live, the National Parks Service (or at least their social media interns) went rogue, and the CDC canceled a major conference on health and climate change. EPA activities nationwide are expected to be immediately impacted by the orders.
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"Starting immediately and until further notice, ARS will not release any public-facing documents", ARS chief of staff Sharon Drumm, wrote in a department-wide email.
On Tuesday, a Twitter account for Badlands National Park, in South Dakota, posted a series of tweets about climate change, an issue that President Trump has called a hoax while promising to promote the drilling and use of fossil fuels.
"ARS will be providing updated direction to its staff", the statement said.
The extent to which these orders will hamper ongoing research at the USDA are unclear.
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