Ag Policy Blog
Todd Neeley DTN Staff Reporter

Friday 09/06/13

Enviros Push for CAFO Information Release

A handful of environmental groups want to intervene in an American Farm Bureau Federation and National Pork Producers Council lawsuit to block the release of additional information from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on concentrated animal feeding operations, according to court documents filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota Thursday.

DTN/The Progressive Farmer is one of four groups that have filed Freedom of Information Act requests for the information.

The release of CAFO data -- much of it including personal farmer information such as names of family members in 29 states -- came to light earlier this year when livestock groups learned EPA released information to environmental groups in answer to a FOIA request.

Agriculture groups were angered by not just the release itself, but by EPA's seeming lack of communication with those groups prior to the FOIA release. The latest FOIA request now tied up in court, centers on more similar information obtained by EPA from six more states.

DTN Ag Policy Editor Chris Clayton filed a FOIA request based on a brief interaction he had with then acting EPA Administrator Bob Perciasepe earlier this summer.

"I tried to talk to Perciasepe about the situation following a congressional hearing in early May," Clayton wrote in a July 5 blog.

"Perciasepe walked past me with an arm wave like a wealthy elite blowing off a pauper asking for change. His entourage also seemed a bit incredulous at the time that a reporter would dare approach a public official in a public setting with questions about a public matter."

This reporter had a similar experience with new EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy following a brief speech to farmers at the Iowa State Fair this summer. McCarthy spoke passionately about the need for EPA to improve its relationship with farmers. Apparently that does not include speaking to agriculture media. As this reporter tried to approach McCarthy for questions after the speech, she was shuffled away quickly.

MOTION TO INTERVENE

On Thursday, the Environmental Integrity Project, Food and Water Watch and Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, filed a motion to intervene on EPA's behalf.

In a number of court documents filed this week, leaders of those groups made the case that the information in question is important to their groups' missions to disseminate important information about CAFOs to the public and their members.

"The Farm Bureau, National Pork Producers Council, and other industry lobby groups have managed for years to keep the highly polluting practices of factory farms under wraps," Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food and Water Watch, said in a statement.

"Now, they want a federal court to promote this secrecy by ordering EPA to withhold even basic information -– the identities and contact information of owners and operators of these facilities -– from the hands of the American people."

After the November 2012 election, EPA's Perciasepe attempted to undo the original FOIA release by asking the environmental groups to return the information and to accept a new release with names and other information redacted.

In a news release Thursday the groups criticized EPA for providing FOIA information to ag groups when the CAFO details were released to environmental groups.

"A series of emails and letters between various EPA and industry officials throughout the spring of 2013 demonstrate even more EPA efforts to appease industry groups opposed to information gathering," the release said.

"For example, EPA itself notified industry of the environmental groups' FOIAs under 'a commitment to be open and transparent' with the industry. EPA produced copies of the documents for each industry group even though they had not requested the documents under FOIA as citizens must; in at least one case EPA hand-delivered a disc of the documents to the Farm Bureau's office in DC."

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Posted at 10:12AM CDT 09/06/13 by Todd Neeley
Comments (4)
Question? Do these enviro groups, as a gesture of good will and example, disclose their donor lists, member lists, and all sources of income including tax breaks and benifits?
Posted by Bonnie Dukowitz at 12:29PM CDT 09/09/13
We are not talking about business addresses on wall street, we are talking about home addresses where children are playing on home - when does the privacy rights of individuals get trumped by environmental groups make sense. Just because a farmer does soil conservation practices that were dictated to him/her by the Federal Farm Bill; doesn't mean his own individual rights are up for scrutiny.
Posted by mark muir at 5:26PM CDT 09/09/13
Sounds a lot like Obamacare. Our personal private information gets distributed to low level bureaucrats throughout the whole country. What could possibly go wrong?
Posted by John Olson at 6:54AM CDT 09/10/13
C'mon John, Because one is a self appointed Enviro, and survives on capitalizing on emotions of the taxpayer and the quest of politicians to be re-elected, does not make one an even, low level Bureaucrat.
Posted by Bonnie Dukowitz at 2:54PM CDT 09/14/13
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