Farm Bureau Stands Up for Farmer Privacy

The American Farm Bureau Federation is taking legal action to stop the Environmental Protection Agency from publicly releasing personal information about thousands of farmers and ranchers and their families. The EPA is expected to respond soon to several Freedom of Information Act requests - prompting the organization to file a lawsuit and seek a temporary restraining order. The National Pork Producers Council is joining Farm Bureau in the lawsuit. Farm Bureau says protecting farmers' and ranchers' right to privacy is a top priority. The hope is to stall the disclosure of names, home addresses, GPS coordinates and personal contact information until a court can clarify EPA's obligation to keep personal information about citizens private. Farm Bureau President Bob Stallman says the lawsuit is about the government's unjustified intrusion into the private lives of citizens.

The 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 environmental organizations earlier this year. That data often included home phone numbers, home emails, employee contact information, home addresses and even some personal notes about the families. EPA has taken the position with Farm Bureau and others that it doesn't have any legal obligation under the Freedom of Information Act to keep most of the information private. EPA intends to release additional personal information from farmers in Minnesota, California, Idaho, Nevada, Oklahoma and Washington in response to new requests.

Farm Bureau argues that EPA is inviting intrusion into the privacy of farmers and their families on a nationwide scale by turning their names and addresses over for public consumption. Stallman says the group supports transparency and frequently advocates for increased government transparency - but says this is an invasion of the personal privacy of citizens. In effect - Stallman says EPA is holding up a loudspeaker and broadcasting where private citizens live and where their children play. He says Farm Bureau isn't just standing up for farmers in this case - but for all citizens who shouldn't have their personal information publicly disseminated by their government.

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