The USDA media page listed all press positions as vacant on Tuesday.
The USDA media page listed all press positions as vacant on Tuesday.

UPDATE 2:31 p.m.

Reuters is now reporting that the USDA is disavowing the gag-order email sent to ARS employees. 

Federal government officials are no longer allowed to communicate with the public and media about certain environmental issues per orders from the Trump administration, multiple news outlets reported Monday and Tuesday.

TheHuffington Post reported Monday night that the Environmental Protection Agency had frozen its grant program and told employees not to talk about it to anyone outside the agency.

Tuesday morning, BuzzFeed News obtained an email sent to to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service asking staff “to stop communicating with the public about taxpayer-funded work.”  This includes sharing scientific studies, social media and banning any “public-facing documents.”

Then, the Associated Press confirmed Huffington Post’s report and went a step further – the administration had ordered a blackout of all media by the EPA.

The ARS is the USDA’s “chief scientific in-house research agency” and employs more than 2,000 scientists with an annual budget of $1.1 billion. This data is used by researchers, farmers and journalists. A researcher who frequently works with ARS told Harvest Public Media that this data is essential to his work.

The ARS has not tweeted on Tuesday. The USDA has not tweeted since Wednesday. The EPA has not tweeted since Thursday – the day before Trump was inaugurated.

The confirmation process is ongoing for Trump Cabinet nominees Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to lead the EPA and former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue to lead the USDA.

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Johnathan Hettinger focuses on pesticide coverage for Investigative Midwest. Growing up in central Illinois, Johnathan saw and had family members working in all aspects of agribusiness, from boots-in-the-field...

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