Settlement Protects Farmers’ Personal Information from FOIA Requests

Podcast / Newsline Mar 31st, 2017

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A settlement agreement reached between the Environmental Protection Agency and the American Farm Bureau Federation will help protect the privacy of farmers. Micheal Clements has more.

Clements: The settlement announced this week stems from the EPA’s release of massive amounts of data related to poultry and livestock operations, including personal contact information. The settlement follows an Appeals Court victory last fall that determined the EPA violated the Freedom of Information Act. AFBF senior counsel for public policy Danielle Quist says the release of this information was very concerning for farmers and ranchers.

Quist: When EPA released these spreadsheets, it contained very personal information about individual farmers and ranchers. It had names of family members, it had their home addresses, email addresses, telephone and cellphone numbers, the GPS coordinates of their farms--and farm families live on the farm so this was a real invasion of their personal privacy to tell the world, including people who aren’t so friendly to agriculture, exactly where they live, where to find their families and how to reach them.

Clements: With the settlement agreement, much of farmers’ personal information has been removed from the Freedom of Information Act requests. Quist says AFBF reviewed 73 spreadsheets stemming from the lawsuit to verify personal information was removed.

Quist: What they can expect is that the only information about them that will be released to the FOIA requesters is the city, county, five digit zip code and the permit status of the operation. Everything else will be redacted so that you can’t see what it is on the spreadsheets.

Clements: Quist says the settlement is a victory for all Americans, not just farmers and ranchers.

Quist: Really, it’s a huge win for everybody because the government is in the business of collecting information about citizens and compiling that information. So, for us this is a great win for farmers and ranchers. We hope we don’t ever have a problem like this again, but really, it goes much broader than that.

Clements: Micheal Clements, Washington.

Shiloh Perry
Communications Assistant, AFBF

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