You’ve been granted free access to this subscribers only article.
Cattlemen: Protect farmers’ IDs from extremists
Identity theft is rife, but farmers may have had their personal information handed out on a plate without their consent, possibly putting them at risk. Family farms and ranches across the nation -- some operating with as few as 12 head -- may have had their information released to animal activists last year without even knowing it.
According to the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released personal information data of beef, swine, and poultry operations in 29 states, totaling more than 80,000 producers. Earth Justice, the Pew Charitable Trust, and the Natural Resources Defense Council received this information from the EPA via a Freedom of Information Act request.
The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association was made aware of this in February 2013, after the EPA collected data about Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO) for a website, which made this data available to anyone. Data released included operations with less than 1,000 head, some with as few as 12 head of cattle, and “not subject to regulation under the Clean Water Act,” the cattlemen’s association said.
During the Independent Cattlemen’s Association of Texas state convention last June in Bastrop, Kate Maher of the cattlemen’s association addressed this issue.
The EPA abandoned the collection of this information, after the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the Department of Homeland Security expressed opposition, due to “a serious overreach of EPA’s authority” that “would create a road map for activists to harass individual families.”
This followed an incident on a ranch in California, in which 14 cattle trucks were burned by an animal rights activist group.
U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa introduced a bill in Congress last July to protect the private information of farmers and ranchers who have CAFO permits in accordance with the Clean Water Act. Rep. Eric Crawford of Arkansas followed suit in April by introducing a similar bill, known as the Farmer Identity Protection Act, in the House. Thus far, the bills have only been discussed in committees.
Within the Senate version of the bill, Congress found that:
•U.S. farmers and ranchers “supply a vital link in the food supply” and are “listed as a critical infrastructure by the Secretary of Homeland Security.”
•Domestic terrorist attacks have occurred as a result of the data released.
•A majority of U.S. livestock operations are family-owned and -operated.
•“State governments and agencies are the primary authority in almost all states for the protection of water quality under the Federal Water Pollution Control Act.”
•The state agencies which maintain livestock operations data also have the authority to address water-quality issues.
•“There is no discernible environmental or scientifically research-related need to create a database” by the EPA.
If the bill is approved and becomes law, the EPA cannot release the name of the owner, operator, or employee of an operation in accordance with the Federal Water Pollution Control Act.
In the meantime, the American Farm Bureau Federation, joined by the National Pork Producers Council, filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota to stop the EPA from releasing information in six states. Texas is not included in this list. According to a March 14 Farm Bureau news article, the court case is ongoing.
The EPA stands firm in its position that it had no legal obligation under the Freedom of Information Act “to keep most of the information private.”
In response, the Farm Bureau is not against the collection of aggregated data of farm and ranch information for government use. But the group warns releasing this data could 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.”
Your Opinions and Comments
Be the first to comment on this story!
You must be logged in to post a comment.
Agriculture Today Archives
Customs intercepts pest new to the United States (May 25, 2016)
Does wounded tree have a chance? (May 25, 2016)
Livestock Market Reports (May 25, 2016)
Mother Nature whips Wilson County crops (May 25, 2016)
Scrapie confirmed in Texas (May 25, 2016)
TDA Market Recap (May 25, 2016)
Texas Hay Report (May 25, 2016)
Beef cattle seven-year decline ends (May 18, 2016)
Educational video for water well owners (May 18, 2016)
Free Beef Quality Assurance training set for May 25 (May 18, 2016)
Fretwell wins Region 8 high school all around rookie saddle (May 18, 2016)
Grant to restore, enhance the monarch butterfly habitat (May 18, 2016)
Grass-fed beef conference (May 18, 2016)
Gun safety and barbecue in New Braunfels (May 18, 2016)
La Vernia Poultry Judging wins state, advances to nationals (May 18, 2016)
Lawn, landscape, rainwater program May 21 in Floresville (May 18, 2016)
Lesser prairie chicken off the list (May 18, 2016)
Livestock Market Reports (May 18, 2016)
Luling Foundation Field Day (May 18, 2016)
Protecting your tomatoes (May 18, 2016)
TDA Market Recap (May 18, 2016)
Texas Hay Report (May 18, 2016)
As El Nińo fades, expect warmer, drier weather says Texas A&M expert (May 11, 2016)
Floresville team wins second at state (May 11, 2016)
Livestock Market Reports (May 11, 2016)
Llamas, load up! (May 11, 2016)
TDA Market Recap (May 11, 2016)
Texas Hay Report (May 11, 2016)
Transplanting mountain laurels (May 11, 2016)
2016 La Vernia Junior Livestock & Poultry Show (May 4, 2016)
Beef, forage symposium May 10 (May 4, 2016)
Cattle raisers’ crime watch (May 4, 2016)
Corn acreage increases in Texas (May 4, 2016)
Help controlling the weeds (May 4, 2016)
Krueger leads the way at La Vernia stock show (May 4, 2016)
Land Heritage nomination deadline nears (May 4, 2016)
Livestock Market Reports (May 4, 2016)
TDA Market Recap (May 4, 2016)
Texas Hay Report (May 4, 2016)
May 2016 Gardening Calendar (May 1, 2016)