Extremist environmental activist groups filed a FOIA request with the EPA and received private information, including home addresses, phone numbers and e-mails on farmers all over the country. The concern is these activist groups will use this data to threaten or bully farmers:
FARM FUTURES – NCBA and the National Pork Producers Council are both furious with EPA for handing extremist groups illegally gathered data on farmers who operate confined animal feeding operations.
NCBA said early this week it was notified by the EPA that the agency had been collecting information from states on [Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs)]. The information was requested by extremist groups, including Earth Justice, the Pew Charitable Trust and the Natural Resources Defense Council through a Freedom of Information Act request and was given to them.
The information released by EPA covers livestock operations in more than 30 states, including many family farmers who feed less than 1,000 head and are not subject to regulation under the Clean Water Act.
Recently, I was informed the Environmental Protection Agency had released the personal information of livestock and poultry producers to extremist environmental groups. The information was released after the groups filed a request through the Freedom of Information Act. The EPA turned over personal information like phone numbers, addresses and even geographic coordinates to environmentalists. An overwhelming majority of the information released appears to be from farms owned by families who may now face threats to their homes and businesses. …
As Chairman of the Agriculture Subcommittee on Livestock, Rural Development, and Credit, I am leading a group of 40 House members in writing a letter to the acting director of the EPA expressing our concerns and asking the acting director to ensure the released information is not improperly used.
How did the EPA get this private data? In short they created a rule based on the Clean Water Act that allowed them to collect this data by forcing large livestock and poultry operations to get Clean Water Act permits simply because they ‘might’ discharge into waterways. But they were forced to drop the rule after being slapped down by a federal appeals court for overstepping their authority. But the EPA still gathered the data anyway, getting it from state water agencies without fully disclosing to those agencies why they were collecting it:
FARM FUTURES – The problem had recent roots in January 2012 when EPA proposed the Clean Water Act Section 308 CAFO Reporting rule to collect information from CAFOs and make it publicly available and readily searchable through their website.
Beef producers and even the Department of Homeland Security expressed concerns this was a serious overreach of EPA’s authority and would create a road map for activists to harass individual families. They also said the proposal would aid and abet terrorism and provide a very real threat to the nation’s food security.
The Pork Producers said the regulation was the result of a 2010 “sweetheart” deal between EPA and the environmental groups. It says the deal was struck while EPA and livestock and poultry producers were in the middle of a lawsuit brought by NPPC over EPA’s 2008 CAFO rule, which required large livestock and poultry operations that “propose to” or that “might” discharge into waterways to obtain Clean Water Act permits. A federal appeals court ruled that the CWA requires permits only for farms that actually discharge.
EPA withdrew the 308 rule on these grounds but then indicated it still wanted to collect data on CAFOs to “more effectively carry out its CAFO permitting programs on a national level and ensure that CAFOs are implementing practices to protect water quality and human health.”
NPPC said EPA then gathered the data from state water agencies without informing them about its intention to share the information with outside groups, including through a searchable national database.
This is exactly what the farmers feared with the collection of this data, that it might fall into the hands of extremists groups. They are outraged:
“When we reviewed the information submitted by the states and released by EPA, we were alarmed at the detail of the information provided on hard working family farmers and ranchers, family operations including my own,” said NCBA past president J.D. Alexander, a cattle feeder from Pilger, Nebraska.
“It is beyond comprehension to me that with threats to my family from harassment atop bio-security concerns, that EPA would gather this information only to release it to these groups. This information details my family’s home address and geographic coordinates. The only thing it doesn’t do is chauffeur these extremists to my house. For some operations, even telephone numbers and deceased relatives are listed.”
We already knew that the EPA was out of control, but we didn’t know they were literally sabotaging farmers by aiding the extremist groups in their campaigns to threaten and intimidate these farmers.