Economists flee Agriculture Department after facing retaliation for criticizing Trump's trade war
President Donald Trump in the Oval Office (screengrab)

As President Donald Trump has provoked a multi-theater trade war, some of the biggest victims have been farmers, who rely on export to sell a large bulk of their crops. Farm incomes have dropped to just 50 percent of what they were in 2013.

But at the Department of Agriculture, economists warning about the negative impacts of Trump's tariffs and threats on farmers report facing retaliation — with six economists specializing in farm taxation and food policy resigning from the agency in April over how they are being treated.

According to Politico, officials at the Economic Research Service say they have been forced by Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to include disclaimers on peer-reviewed research unflattering to the president, indicating that the findings are "preliminary" and "should not be construed to represent any agency determination or policy."

In addition to the trade war, Perdue has also pushed back on negative economic research on the GOP tax cut bill passed in 2017. After a presentation in August 2018 that indicated only a small group of wealthy farmers would benefit from the tax cuts sparked negative press coverage, Perdue announced he would restructure the Economic Research Service, putting its 300 economists under the control of a political appointee who reports to him.

Multiple high-ranking officials in Trump's administration have faced controversy over alleged retaliation, including former EPA administrator Scott Pruitt and former Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, both of whom resigned amid federal investigations.