The Oregon Natural Resources Report - Agricultural News from Oregon

EPA Court case on farmer privacy

May 15, 2015


The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) urged the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit to uphold federal privacy laws and prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from releasing sensitive data on farmers and ranchers to environmental activist organizations.

“The idea that the EPA has the legal authority to collect the private information of a farmer and then release it to private organizations – to advance their institutional purposes – is ludicrous,” NFIB Small Business Legal Center Executive Director Karen Harned said. “The EPA is setting these farmers up to be harassed and threatened with lawsuits. Not to mention several of the people affected share business and home addresses and phone numbers.”

NFIB filed an amicus brief in support of the plaintiffs, American Farmers Bureau Federation and National Pork Producers Council, in the case of American Farmers Bureau Federation v US Environmental Protection Agency. The case questions the EPA’s plan to release private information it has collected on farmers and ranchers throughout the country. Information that has been gathered from state and local government records by the EPA includes: GPS coordinates, home addresses, home telephone numbers, personal email addresses and information documenting the size of these farms and the number of animals on site. The EPA has proposed to release the information in response to a Freedom of Information Act request from environmentalist organizations.

NFIB is arguing that the Privacy Act and the Freedom of Information Act (FIOC) protect small businesses from the disclosure of private information.

“An individual’s right to privacy should not be waived just because they decide to engage in entrepreneurial endeavors,” Harned continued. “We are asking that the court uphold small business owner’s right to privacy and restrict the EPA from releasing information they collected without any statutory authority.”

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