In early March, Congressman Lee Terry (R-Neb.) was one of four legislators who introduced who introduced legislation to prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency from disclosing the private and confidential information of livestock and poultry producers to the public.
The other sponsors of H.R. 4157 were Congressmen Rick Crawford (R-Ark.), Mike McIntyre (D-N.C.) and Jim Costa (D-Cal.)
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 radical environmental groups through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request in February and again in April 2013. The release divulged names, addresses, geographic coordinates and in some cases telephone numbers and email addresses of more than 80,000 producers in 29 states. EPA has plans to release information on thousands more farmers and ranchers in the future.
"There is no justification for the blatant disregard of our privacy," according to Bob McCan, president of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association. "To turn this type of information over to anyone who has a computer is not just reckless, but it poses serious agro-terrorism threats."
EPA claims it lacks statutory authority to protect livestock producers' personal information. The Farmer Identity Protection Act would unequivocally 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.
We applaud the representatives that have introduced this bill to help protect the health and safety of cattle producers and their families."
H.R. 4157 is the companion bill to S. 1343 introduced in the Senate by Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) in July 2013.