The American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Pork Producers Council are suing the Environmental Protection Agency over the release of personal information on tens of thousands of individual farmers and ranchers back in early 2013.
Danielle Quist is the Senior Counsel for Public Policy for the American Farm Bureau Federation in Washington, D.C. She said the EPA received a request from environmental groups under the Freedom of Information Act regarding Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, or CAFO’s. The EPA defines Animal Feeding Operations as agricultural operations where animals are kept and raised in confined situations. Feed is brought to the animals rather than the animals grazing or otherwise seeking feed.
Quist said the EPA recently asked states to provide information on the CAFO’s in their borders, and talked about the information they compiled from 29 of the 50 states:
According to FoxNews.com, the FOIA request came from three environmental activist groups, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Pew Charitable Trust, and EarthJustice. Quist said, “Without looking at what was contained in the requests, released all the information.” The Farm Bureau says that’s where the problem arises.
Quist said “we found that states had given the EPA things like personal home phone numbers, personal email addresses, and even the GPS location of where each house was precisely located on these farms. EPA literally put a bow on it, turned around, and handed the information to these environmental organizations.”
“We’re not talking about the number of animals on a farm, or the type of manure storage facility on the farm, which we have no problem with people knowing. We’re talking about personal information.”
Quist said EPA’s position is “this information is available in the public domain, and they’re under no obligation to redact any of it. Farm Bureau’s position is “if the home and the business are co-located, that is a home address, and there is case law in Minnesota, where the suit was filed, to support this. Supreme Court decisions, for decades, have said that’s all personal information.” She said “the Supreme Court has said even though you run a business from home, that’s still all private information.”
Farm Bureau is concerned about the potential for mischief at these operations. “You’ve got generations of family members that live on the site of these operations,” said Quist. “We’re not trying to protect farmers with separate business locations and information, we’re trying to protect the farmers that live on site with a spouse and children, and we want their information to be kept private.”
According to the nationalreview.com, agro-terrorism is a new term that burst into the national spotlight back in the early hours of January 8, 2012. A fire broke out at Harris Farms in the San Joaquin Valley of California, destroying 14 trailer trucks and causing more than 2 million dollars in damage. An anonymous news release from the Animal Liberation Front claimed responsibility, describing how the attack took place, and concluded threateningly: “until next time.”
The Animal Liberation Front is a worldwide organization as you can see in this video. The American Farm Bureau doesn’t want this kind of activism in America:
Bob Stallman, the President of the American Farm Bureau, told Agri-Pulse.com “EPA is in effect holding up a loudspeaker and broadcasting where private citizens live and where their children play.”
Quist expects the case to “be in motions for summary judgment by this summer,” and is hoping for a final ruling by the end of 2014. “This is a case everyone should be paying attention too. If the EPA gets away with breaching confidentiality, which government agency will be next?”