In response to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) repeated release of personal information of farmers and ranchers, the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) and the National Pork Producers Council have jointly filed a federal lawsuit and temporary restraining order to halt the infractions.
Earlier this year, EPA released the personal information of tens of thousands of farmers and ranchers in 29 states after receiving multiple Freedom of Information requests. The information released to the animal rights groups included names, addresses, personal contact information and in some cases, the names of deceased relatives.
The lawsuit was filed before the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota, according to the AFBF.
The court order seeks to stall disclosures of farmers’ and ranchers’ personal information until a court can clarify EPA’s obligations to keep personal information about citizens private.
“We are sticking up for the tens of thousands of farmers and ranchers whose personal information would end up in the public domain,” AFBF President Bob Stallman said. “This lawsuit is about the government’s unjustified intrusion into citizen’s private lives.”
According to AFBF, the majority of farmers and ranchers, as well as their families, don’t just work on the farm – they live there, too. By turning over farmers’ names and addresses for public consumption, EPA is inviting intrusion into the privacy of farmers and their families on a nationwide scale.
“We support transparency and frequently advocate for increased government transparency,” Stallman said. “But publicly sharing spreadsheet upon spreadsheet of tens of thousands of peoples’ names, addresses and other personal information is not transparency in the workings of government – it is an invasion of the personal privacy of citizens.
“EPA is in effect holding up a loudspeaker and broadcasting where private citizens live and where their children play,” he says.
In the wrong hands, personal location information could disrupt farm activity and 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.
“In the scope of everything happening nationally with the exposure of citizens’ private information, it’s time to say enough is enough,” Stallman said. “Farm Bureau is not only standing up for farmers in this case, but we are also standing up for all citizens who shouldn’t have their personal information publicly disseminated by their government.”
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