House-Senate Conference Mulls Protecting Agricultural and Livestock Businesses from Public Scrutiny

Monday, November 11, 2013

While members of Congress hash out the details of the latest Farm Bill, government watchdogs have expressed concerns over certain provisions allowing large agricultural and livestock operations to seal off their businesses from public scrutiny.


The pro-industry move follows a serious mishap by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that agricultural lobbyists have seized on to push their agenda.


EPA officials previously released information about 80,000 livestock operations to environmental groups, which never should have happened. The agency retrieved the data and destroyed it, while assuring farmers such a mistake would not occur again.


But the inappropriate disclosure fueled industry proponents to demand that new legal provisions be adopted that allow farm and livestock operators to avoid reporting environmental pollution and other wrongdoing to the government.


The Project on Government Oversight (POGO) and more than 40 other groups have publicly opposed these changes included in the Farm Bill.


They claim the provisions would undermine transparency of agricultural businesses that break the law by weakening the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).


One provision in the bill, Section 1613, “would further contradict the FOIA presumption of openness, creating instead a presumption of secrecy,” POGO’s Christine Anderson and Angela Canterbury wrote.


“It would prohibit any federal agency subject to FOIA from disclosing information of any kind that concerns ‘an agricultural operation, farming or conservation practices or the land itself.’ Under this provision, not even statistical data integral to studies of impacts on public health and other effects of farmland operations would be available,” they added.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Farm Bill Debate: Corporate Privacy or Public’s Right to Know (by Christine Anderson and Angela Canterbury, Project on Government Oversight)

Farm Bill Undermines FOIA (by Randall Rasmussen, Rapid City Journal)

“Monsanto Protection Act” Dropped from Senate Bill to Delight of GMO Critics (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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