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NCBA Says Producer Information Remains At Risk

Group's past president says Environmental Protection Agency 'cannot be trusted with sensitive information'

Published on: May 3, 2013

The National Cattlemen's Beef Association Thursday said the Environmental Protection Agency again has released producer data to groups including Earth Justice, Pew Charitable Trust and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

In February, NCBA and other livestock groups scrutinized the EPA for releasing information on livestock producers in 10 states. The records released included names of producers and operations, locations and in some cases personal phone numbers, NCBA said. The group noted that most of the 80,000 facilities listed were not regulated under the Clean Water Act, some having as few as 12 head of livestock.

Groups past president says Environmental Protection Agency cannot be trusted with sensitive information
Group's past president says Environmental Protection Agency 'cannot be trusted with sensitive information'

NCBA said after the group expressed concern about access to personal information, EPA conducted a review of the records and admitted it released too much information for 10 of the 29 states included in the documents. After a second review, the agency again said too much information was released for operations located in Nebraska and Montana, NCBA said.

NCBA Past President J.D. Alexander, whose information was included in the first incident, speculated that "someone at EPA is completely incompetent or intentionally violating federal law. Either way, this action shows EPA cannot be trusted with sensitive information and should not have the authority to procure or disseminate it."

However, John Devine, senior attorney for NRDC -- one of the groups requesting the information through a FOIA request -- said in a Feb. 21, 2013 blog post that much of the information released is already public and doesn't suggest a security risk.

"The most irresponsible charge made by NCBA is that providing this information to public interest groups somehow may facilitate criminal acts against facilities; that accusation is entirely unwarranted. NRDC and Pew condemn such illegal activities and reject the notion that transparency will encourage them," he wrote.

Sens. Mike Johanns, R-Neb., and Deb Fischer, R-Neb., however, also expressed concern that the information released would be used against farm and ranch owners.

Fischer said the EPA's disclosure of personal information "demonstrates a complete disregard for [citizens'] privacy and safety." She added that the EPA "mismanaged" their attempt to recover previously released information and the situation "represents a pattern of disturbing disregard for the rights of our citizens."

Johanns, who just last week testified against what he says is EPA's lack of transparency regarding aerial surveillance, called the information release "woeful negligence."

"I certainly hope EPA's release of sensitive personal data was not part of a larger agenda to jeopardize American agriculture operations, but its track record does not help its case," Johanns said.

Alexander said NCBA would request an investigation by the Office of the Inspector General into the matter.