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USDA's internal watchdog to probe allegedly buried climate change reports
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) inspector general is launching a probe into whether the agency withheld reports on climate change.
The inspection follows a September report from Democrats that found more than 1,400 USDA climate studies the administration "largely failed to publicize" on climate research.
"Our objective is to determine whether any changes in policy and/or processes impacted the release of scientific reports, documents, and/or communication of USDA research," the Office of the Inspector General wrote in a letter to Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) released Tuesday.
Reporting from Politico found that USDA declined to issue press releases or announcements on more than 45 peer-reviewed studies that were cleared through the nonpartisan Agricultural Research Service.
That spurred the investigation request from Pingree in June.
"The allegations that the Trump Administration has suppressed USDA research which could help us mitigate the impacts of climate change raise very serious concerns. I'm pleased that the USDA Inspector General has responded to my concerns and will conduct a full investigation because this data is essential to farmers' livelihoods and the future of our food supply," Pingree said in a statement to The Hill.
The inspection comes as many researchers are fleeing USDA as it moves its two main research agencies to Kansas City. USDA's Economic Research Service has lost nearly 80 percent of its employees due to the relocation.
That flight has also impacted the agency's ability to release research.
"Due to decreased staffing levels, ERS will for considerable time be unable to provide the same level of breadth and depth in its economic research and outlook analysis as it did in the past," the agency wrote in a memo obtained by The Hill before listing reports that will be delayed or discontinued until further notice, including those on major commodities, food stamps and rural economies.