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USDA employee clarifies agency guidance following backlash

The USDA’s acting deputy secretary has been busy putting out a social media firestorm following a memo issued by USDA’s Agricultural Research Service that would prohibit the release of any documents to the public.

Michael Young, a veteran USDA employee, says the ARS memo was not reviewed by him. Young says he drafted his own USDA guidance to navigate the transition and it supersedes the unapproved ARS email.

He says his memo is almost identical to one released during the Obama transition.  “I don’t have anything in my guidance that says to stop everything where you can’t release anything,” he says.

Young told reporters in a call late on Tuesday that he issued his guidance to avoid any surprises.  “I have a new incoming set of policy people,” he says.  “Those folks need to have an opportunity to get their feet on the ground to understand what’s going on in this department.”

He emphasized the interim policies do not put a lockdown on USDA scientists.  Young says the guidance isn’t meant to stop communication or even delay it, but rather meant to formalize what he calls “fairly standard practice within the department”.

Audio courtesy Chris Clayton at DTN.

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