Short-lived gag order on USDA raises concerns
The peculiar actions prompted the reporter to find out why USDA must continue to communicate with the private sector and the public. He spoke to Glenda Humiston, vice president of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, who previously served in USDA as undersecretary for agriculture and natural resources during the Clinton Administration and as California director of USDA Rural Development during the Obama Administration.
She said USDA collaborations with the university and the private sector are numerous and complex, involving satellite imagery, invasive pest control, and other issues of vital concern.
"Not only jobs could be lost, but frankly, the food supply could be put at risk," she said. "We are constantly battling pests and diseases and dealing with food safety issues and all of that requires constant communication."
As an example of the critical nature of USDA-public communication, Humiston pointed out that the USDA monitors dams, many of which are 50 to 100 years old, and, in the West, dealing with record rainfall and floods. Without transfer of data between USDA, other government agencies and the public, lives could be lost.
"This isn't just a matter of keeping reporters from doing their jobs," Humiston said. "There are real safety issues at stake here."