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ARS will continue 'free flow of information'ARS will continue 'free flow of information'

Reports that ARS has blacked out public information are wrong, ARS communications director told Feedstuffs.

Jacqui Fatka

January 24, 2017

2 Min Read
ARS will continue 'free flow of information'
University of Minnesota technician Sonya Ewert (left) and ARS soil scientist Rodney Venterea use a gas chromatograph to determine amounts of greenhouse gases in samples collected from fields.Photo by Stephen Ausmus, USDA ARS

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s research arm, the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), came under fire for an internal document stating that it would not "release any public-facing documents.” However, a spokesman for ARS said the agency remains committed to sharing information with the public.

ARS chief of staff Sharon Drumm sent an email to all ARS 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.”

A report in BuzzFeed said the email to department staff, including 2,000 scientists, directed employees to “stop communicating with the public about taxpayer-funded work.”

In an emailed statement from Christopher Bentley, ARS director of the office of communications, he clarified that the internal email sent to staff related to agency information products such as news releases and social media content; “scientific publications, released through peer-reviewed professional journals, are not included,” Bentley noted.

“As the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s chief scientific in-house research agency, ARS values and is committed to maintaining the free flow of information between our scientists and the American public as we strive to find solutions to agricultural problems affecting America,” Bentley added.

The ARS internal email was sent out before official guidance that the Office of the Secretary be consulted on questions related to legislation, budgets, policy issues and regulations.

Bentley pointed out that ARS issued a press release Monday acknowledging the breakthrough work of one of its scientists being awarded the National Academy of Science’s first ever Prize in Food & Agriculture Sciences.

ARS is USDA’s chief scientific in-house research agency. ARS conducts research to develop and transfer solutions to agricultural problems of high national priority and provides information access and dissemination to ensure high-quality, safe food and other agricultural products, to assess the nutritional needs of Americans, to sustain a competitive agricultural economy, to enhance the natural resource base and the environment and to provide economic opportunities for rural citizens, communities and society as a whole.



About the Author(s)

Jacqui Fatka

Policy editor, Farm Futures

Jacqui Fatka grew up on a diversified livestock and grain farm in southwest Iowa and graduated from Iowa State University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communications, with a minor in agriculture education, in 2003. She’s been writing for agricultural audiences ever since. In college, she interned with Wallaces Farmer and cultivated her love of ag policy during an internship with the Iowa Pork Producers Association, working in Sen. Chuck Grassley’s Capitol Hill press office. In 2003, she started full time for Farm Progress companies’ state and regional publications as the e-content editor, and became Farm Futures’ policy editor in 2004. A few years later, she began covering grain and biofuels markets for the weekly newspaper Feedstuffs. As the current policy editor for Farm Progress, she covers the ongoing developments in ag policy, trade, regulations and court rulings. Fatka also serves as the interim executive secretary-treasurer for the North American Agricultural Journalists. She lives on a small acreage in central Ohio with her husband and three children.

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