AFBF, Pork Producers' farmer privacy lawsuit dismissed

AFBF, Pork Producers' farmer privacy lawsuit dismissed

Minnesota court finds CAFO information released in 2013 hasn't caused privacy issues; information was already publicly available

A Minnesota judge this week dismissed a lawsuit challenging EPA's 2013 release of farmers' information to environmental groups as part of a Freedom of Information Act request.

The lawsuit, dating back to 2013, was filed by the American Farm Bureau and the National Pork Producers. The groups questioned EPA's ability to release information about private citizens.

The judge, however, said the released information – which included the names and addresses of thousands of farmers in 29 states – was either already publicly available via the internet or hadn't impacted farmers who were required to take out permits under the Clean Water Act because CWA mandates disclosures of such information.

Minnesota court finds CAFO information released in 2013 hasn't caused privacy issues; information was already publicly available

In addition to asking the EPA to stop releasing farmers' and ranchers' personal information, the suit further asked the court to clarify EPA's obligation to keep personal information about citizens private when responding to FOIA requests.

Farm Bureau President Bob Stallman said Thursday that farmers and ranchers should be concerned about the court's decision.

"This court seems to believe that the Internet age has eliminated the individual’s interest in controlling the distribution of his or her personal information. We strongly disagree," he said in a statement.

EPA was represented in the case by intervenors Food & Water Watch, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement and The Environmental Integrity Project, represented by lawyers at the Government Accountability Project.

Related: Ag Producers' Privacy Top Priority for Farm Groups

According to the intervening groups, the information is necessary to provide citizens the "right to know where factory farms are located and whether or not those operations are being responsible stewards of the land and waterways."

Farm Bureau and other groups, including the National Cattlemens Beef Association, feared that the information would leave farmers vulnerable to bio-security threats and other criminal attacks by groups opposed to farming and ranching.

AFBF and NPPC have 60 days to appeal the court's decision.

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