More Government-Grown "News": USDA Pays Writer

"An Agriculture Department agency paid a freelance writer at least $7,500 to write articles touting federal conservation programs and place them in outdoors magazines," reports the Washington Post. In 2003, the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service hired Dave Smith to "research and write articles for hunting and fishing magazines describing the benefits of NRCS Farm Bill programs." None of the three articles Smith published, in the Outdoor Oklahoma and Washington-Oregon Game & Fish magazines, disclosed the USDA payments. An NRCS public relations staffer offered the position to Smith because, according to NRCS head David Gagner, "We truly didn't think we had somebody who was a good enough expert on these issues, and that type of writer." Gagner said NRCS would consider similar contracts in the future, but would ensure articles disclosed "that that writing was done by, for" the USDA.