Early this week the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) was notified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that the agency had been collecting information from states on Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). This 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 (FOIA) request and granted to them.
“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, Neb. “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.”
In January 2012, 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. Cattlemen and women along with the Department of Homeland Security expressed concerns that this was not only a serious overreach of EPA’s authority and would create a road map for activists to harass individual families, but that the proposal would aid and abet terrorism and provide a very real threat to the nation’s food security. EPA later withdrew the 308 rule on these grounds, but NCBA has learned that the agency still intends to use this gathered data to create a national searchable database of livestock operations. EPA’s current action proves that our nation says it is concerned with national security, but does not care about personal small business security, said Alexander.
“Cattle producers won this issue with EPA’s decision to withdraw the rule and with the withdrawal we had hoped precautions would be taken by the agency to protect such information. Instead of protecting this information, EPA was compiling it in a nice package for these groups, all on the federal dole,” said Alexander. “Moreover, EPA knew, or had reason to know, this information would be readily accessible to all groups wishing to harm agriculture, through a simple and quick FOIA request. My question is, with government overspending and rumors from United States Department of Agriculture Secretary Vilsack threatening to shut down meat inspection to control spending, why is EPA using valuable government resources to do the dirty work of extremists, activists and terrorists?”
The information released by EPA covers CAFOs in more than 30 states, including many family farmers and ranchers who feed less than 1,000 head and are not subject to regulation under the Clean Water Act.