You’ve been granted free access to this subscribers only article.
Farm Bureau files suit to protect farmers’ privacy
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Protecting farmers’ and ranchers’ right to privacy is a top priority, said the American Farm Bureau Federation in a July 5 Farm Bureau press release; the group took legal action July 5 to stop the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from publicly releasing personal information about thousands of farmers and ranchers and their families. EPA is expected to respond to several Freedom of Information Act requests, prompting the American Farm Bureau Federation to file a lawsuit and seek a temporary restraining order before the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota.
By seeking an immediate court order stopping EPA’s imminent release, the Farm Bureau hopes to stall disclosures of farmers’ and ranchers’ names, home addresses, GPS coordinates, and personal contact information until a court can clarify EPA’s obligation to keep personal information about citizens private. The National Pork Producers Council joined the Farm Bureau in the lawsuit.
“We are sticking up for the tens of thousands of farmers and ranchers whose personal information would end up in the public domain,” said American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman. “This lawsuit is about the government’s unjustified intrusion into citizens’ private lives.”
Earlier this year the farming and ranching community was shocked that EPA released personal information about thousands of livestock and poultry farmers and ranchers in 29 states in response to Freedom of Information Act requests from three environmental organizations. The massive data release contained tens of thousands of lines in spreadsheets often including home phone numbers, home emails, employee contact information, home addresses, and in some cases personal notes about the families. EPA had required state regulatory agencies to provide the agency with this information, which it then publicly released in its entirety. EPA has taken the position with Farm Bureau and others that it has no legal obligation under the Freedom of Information Act to keep most of the information private. Now, in response to new Freedom of Information Act requests, EPA intends to release additional personal information from farmers in Minnesota, California, Idaho, Nevada, Oklahoma, and Washington.
According to the American Farm Bureau Federation, the majority of farmers and ranchers, as well as their families, don’t just work on the farm -- they live there, too. By turning over farmers’ names and addresses for public consumption, EPA is inviting intrusion into the privacy of farmers and their families on a nationwide scale.
“We support transparency and frequently advocate for increased government transparency,” said Stallman. “But publicly sharing spreadsheet upon spreadsheet of tens of thousands of people’s names, addresses, and other personal information is not transparency in the workings of government -- it is an invasion of the personal privacy of citizens.
“EPA is in effect holding up a loudspeaker and broadcasting where private citizens live and where their children play,” continued Stallman.
The American Farm Bureau Federation said it does not necessarily object to the collection of aggregated data of farm and ranch business information for government use, but in the wrong hands personal location information could disrupt farm activity and lead to farm equipment theft or even sabotage or criminal mischief, especially for those farms that store fertilizer and chemicals or have large numbers of animals on the farm.
“In the scope of everything happening nationally with the exposure of citizens’ private information, it’s time to say enough is enough,” said Stallman. “Farm Bureau is not only standing up for farmers in this case, but we are also standing up for all citizens who shouldn’t have their personal information publicly disseminated by their government.”
Your Opinions and Comments
Be the first to comment on this story!
You must be logged in to post a comment.
Agriculture Today Archives
Add some ‘glads’ to your garden (June 29, 2016)
County Farm Bureau: Giving back to the community, more (June 29, 2016)
Dr. Johnson receives Honorary FFA degree (June 29, 2016)
Livestock Market Reports (June 29, 2016)
Pleasanton cowgirl represents Texas in Tennessee (June 29, 2016)
TDA Market Recap (June 29, 2016)
Texas Hay Report (June 29, 2016)
U.S. Cattlemen defend beef: Say no to ‘Meatless Monday’ (June 29, 2016)
County committee nomination period begins (June 22, 2016)
Hartmann takes the steer by the horns to win state championship (June 22, 2016)
La Vernia FFA wraps up school year with honors, scholarships (June 22, 2016)
Livestock Market Reports (June 22, 2016)
Root rot knocks out roses (June 22, 2016)
TDA Market Recap (June 22, 2016)
Texas Hay Report (June 22, 2016)
A student’s ag-related journey (June 15, 2016)
Family Land Heritage news (June 15, 2016)
Five dirty truths on agriculture (June 15, 2016)
Horseherb galloping through yards (June 15, 2016)
Kristin Storey: South Texas queen to compete for national title (June 15, 2016)
Livestock Market Reports (June 15, 2016)
Miller announces assistance for farmers devastated by floods (June 15, 2016)
No “rain, rain, go away” as precipitation persists (June 15, 2016)
Schwartz takes lead as Texas state veterinarian (June 15, 2016)
TDA Market Recap (June 15, 2016)
Texas Hay Report (June 15, 2016)
Texas Rural Leadership Program (June 15, 2016)
It’s almost rodeo time in Stockdale (June 8, 2016)
Livestock Market Reports (June 8, 2016)
Save seed pods for next fall (June 8, 2016)
TDA Market Recap (June 8, 2016)
Texas Hay Report (June 8, 2016)
Big Time Texas Hunts entries now on sale (June 1, 2016)
Burbridge leads the way in Buck Taylor roping event (June 1, 2016)
Farm Bureau solicits AgLead, FarmLead participants (June 1, 2016)
June 2016 Gardening Calendar (June 1, 2016)
Livestock Market Reports (June 1, 2016)
Save squash from vine borers (June 1, 2016)
State Farm Bureau testifies on agricultural use valuation (June 1, 2016)
TDA Market Recap (June 1, 2016)
Texas Hay Report (June 1, 2016)