Democrats are pressuring the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to release climate change reports they allege may have been downplayed or ignored.
Lawmakers were responding to a June 23 Politico report, which claimed that the Trump administration has refused to publicize dozens of USDA Agricultural Research Service studies highlighting the risks climate change poses to the agricultural industry.
Senate Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., wrote to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue this week asking him to start making the department’s climate-related research available to the public. “It would be deeply irresponsible for (USDA) to suppress research that helps USDA customers and the agricultural economy as a whole,” she wrote.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., also wrote to Perdue asking him to immediately release any climate studies that may have been suppressed. “When federally-funded scientific research is curtailed or withheld because of its attention to the consequences of climate change, farmers are cut out of participating in climate solutions and, at worst, unable to effectively mitigate and adapt their operations and infrastructure to its effects,” Klobuchar said in the June 24 letter.
Meanwhile, Perdue during an event in Iowa and a subsequent interview with CNN refuted the Politico report and said he was unaware of any such studies, let alone their alleged suppression. He reiterated the importance of science-based decision-making in USDA’s policy setting activities, and said he meets on a regular basis with climate scientists.
Stabenow joined Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, and 17 other senators in sending a letter to the USDA Inspector General on June 24 to request an investigation into “potential instances of suppression and alteration of scientific reports, documents, or communications produced by USDA.”
The Senate letter also expressed concerns about the number of scientists and researchers leaving USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS), National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) “at alarming rates.”