The USDA Lifts Its Gag Order After Enormous Public Backlash

Senior Contributor
01.25.17

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Trump’s first order of business as President was, allegedly, to try and force government agencies to stop talking to the public. The EPA had its grants frozen and is currently 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. Most worrying to many people, though, was the “gag order” the Department of Agriculture issued to its scientists, since, um, that’s our food they’re studying. Fortunately, the gag order is now gone, although the question of why it was issued in the first place remains.

According to Reuters, the memo sent to the USDA’s Agricultural Research Services was “released without Departmental direction, and prior to Departmental guidance being issued,” according to the department. Almost immediately after the email went out, it appears that acting Deputy Secretary Michael L. Young sent out a memo that essentially offered the same guidance and rules as the Obama administration, with two changes: One, the Office of the Secretary will apparently be handling all PR duties from now on, and two, office closures, oddly enough, are forbidden.

The main question is, if the gag order was released “without Departmental direction,” who sent it and why? What were they hoping to achieve? Was this an overzealous subordinate? Hopefully answers will be more forthcoming, especially as the Trump administration tries to assemble itself in the coming days.

(via The Hill)

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