Four legislators on Thursday introduced a bill in the U.S. House to keep producer information out of the hands of activists.
Reps. Rick Crawford, R-Ark., Lee Terry, R-Neb., Mike McIntyre, D-N.C. and Jim Costa, D-Calif., introduced the legislation, which would bar the Environmental Protection Agency from disclosing the private and confidential information of livestock and poultry producers to the public.
The Farmer Identity Protection Act comes in response to the EPA's release of livestock and poultry producers' names and other personal information to three environmental groups through a Freedom of Information Act request in February 2013 and again in April 2013.
According to the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, the release divulged names, addresses, geographic coordinates and in some cases telephone numbers and email addresses of over 80,000 producers in 29 states.
EPA has plans to release information on thousands more farmers and ranchers in the future, NCBA asserts.
"There is no justification for the blatant disregard of our privacy," said NCBA President Bob McCan. "To turn this type of information over to anyone who has a computer is not just reckless, but it poses serious agro-terrorism threats."
According to NCBA, EPA has said it lacks statutory authority to protect livestock producers' personal information. The Farmer Identity Protection Act, however, would 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 individual identifying information, or with the producer's consent.
"Once this information is released, you cannot take it back," said McCan. "With EPA planning to release more information as soon as it is able, Congress must step in and provide relief to livestock producers."
The bill is a companion to S. 1343 introduced in the Senate by Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa and Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., in July 2013.
News source: NCBA