Yesterday, U.S. Sens. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) introduced legislation that protects the personal information of livestock producers from dissemination by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The Farmer Identity Protection Act (S. 1343) comes in response to the EPA’s release of livestock and poultry producers’ names and other personal information to three radical environmental groups through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request in February and again in April. The release divulged names, addresses, geographic coordinates and in some cases telephone numbers and email addresses of over 80,000 producers in 29 states.
“Livestock producers are grateful to Sens. Grassley and Donnelly for introducing this legislation,” according to National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) Past President and Pilger, Neb., cattle feeder J.D. Alexander. “Unlike other businesses, cattlemen and women live, work and raise their families on their operations. We have a reasonable expectation of privacy on our private property and there is no conceivable reason for the EPA to release this type of information.”
EPA claims it lacks statutory authority to protect livestock producers’ personal information. The Farmer Identity Protection Act would unequivocally provide the agency with the ability to prevent such farm-specific releases from happening in the future, allowing the agency to provide information to outside parties only in aggregate without individually identifying information, or with the producer’s consent.
“In this instance EPA went too far, jeopardizing the health and safety of cattle producers and their families,” said Alexander. “As a producer whose information was blatantly given to the recognized enemies of the U.S. beef industry, it comes as a relief to have this legislation introduced. Congress is going to have to be the one to fix this problem created by the incestuous relationship between environmentalists and EPA. Today is a step in that direction, and we thank Sens. Grassley and Donnelly for their efforts.”