The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) has submitted comments on behalf of a coalition of livestock organizations in regards to a proposal from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that would require anyone holding a federal Clean Water Act (CWA) permit, as well as state agencies that manage CWA permits, to electronically submit those permits and any associated reports to EPA for inclusion on a web-based national database.

For farmers who do not discharge and do not need to obtain a federal permit, the proposed rule nevertheless would require states to submit information associated with state permits or records of state inspections at the farm.

The coalition indicated it cannot support EPA’s E-Reporting Rule because it would lead to the unlawful dissemination of personal information about the country’s farmers. The groups expressed extreme disappointment that, despite the level of controversy and attention over EPA’s release earlier this year of personal and private information on farmers, the agency’s latest proposal doesn’t protect private, personal information.

NPPC and the American Farm Bureau Federation filed suit against EPA in February after it released to environmental groups under the Freedom of Information Act raw data from farms in 30 states, including, in some instances farmers’ home addresses, phone numbers and e-mail addresses as well as information on employees of operations.

 

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Until that litigation is resolved, they said, EPA should delay further development of the proposed E-Reporting Rule as it applies to farmers.

The agricultural and food organizations also raised concerns with the proposal’s provision to organize farmers’ personal information into a publicly available, searchable database. That would create a “system of records,” which must be protected from general disclosure under the Privacy Act.

The agency also must consider the privacy protections in the Paperwork Reduction Act, pointed out the organizations, which also reiterated their concerns about the security and biosecurity of farms.

Those concerns were made previously in response to EPA’s 2011 proposal to develop a CAFO Reporting Rule and database of information on farms. Click here to read the comments.

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