AmericanFarm.com

Oh, what a web we weave ... (Editorial)

(Feb. 17, 2015) The EPA won one in Minnesota.
What that may mean for states is the Mid-Atlantic is uncertain.
A federal judge in Mineapolis has dismissed a challenge brought by the American Farm Bureau Federation and National Pork Producers Council against the Environmental Protection Agency. It has a familiar ring.
AFBF and the NPPC were seeking to block the federal agency’s ability to release public information regarding highly polluting “factory farms” to citizens concerned about clean water.
Food & Water Watch, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement and The Environmental Integrity Project, represented by lawyers at the Government Accountability Project, had intervened in the case on behalf of citizens who, it alleged, “have a right to protect their communities and their environment from polluting factory farms and to safeguard open government.”
The Farm Bureau filed its case after EPA released documents relating to the location, size and ownership of thousands of farms to environmental advocacy groups pursuant to a request made under the Freedom of Information Act back in 2013.
“We’re grateful that the judge saw through industry’s improper attempt to keep their polluting ways in the dark,” said Jeffery Gulley, Food and Public Health Counsel for Government Accountability Project. “Hopefully this ruling will enable the public to hold this industry accountable for the damage it continues to inflict on waterways and communities in almost every state in the country.”
The American Farm Bureau Federation quickly warned of the consequences of the ruling.
“Farmers, ranchers and citizens in general should be concerned about the court’s disregard for individual privacy,” said American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman. “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.”
AFBF has 60 days to appeal the decision.
Meawhile, the AFBF was hoping that other courts might shut the door on what could be a national run on privacy issues.
Prior to the Minnesota case, the EPA had already released personal information of farmers and ranchers from 29 states and the AFBF has filed suit to block further disclosures regarding farmers and ranchers in California, Idaho, Nevada, Oklahoma and Washington.
It’s the social media age we live in that encourages these alleged invasions of privacy.
Note that in the Minnesota case, the court concluded that so long as the farmer’s personal information can be found somewhere on the Internet, EPA’s distribution of that same information does not result in any injury to the farmer.
The court noted that a farmer with a public Facebook page used to promote the farm, or whose information could be found via search engine or any state regulatory website in any form, has no right to sue to stop the federal government from compiling and distributing that information.
It’s tough to beat Google at its own game.