The American Farm Bureau and the National Pork Producers Council Friday filed suit against the Environmental Protection Agency for providing producers' private information to animal rights and environmental interest groups.
The AFBF said the suit is based on EPA's expected response to several Freedom of Information Act requests this week, therefore prompting the lawsuit and a temporary restraining order before the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota.
AFBF and NPPC hope the order will stall EPA's release of producers' names, telephone numbers and GPS coordinates until EPA's obligation to keep the information private is clarified.
Earlier this year, the EPA released information to interest groups that filed FOIA requests. AFBF says the information included home phone numbers, home emails, employee contact information, home addresses and in some cases personal notes about the families.
The EPA maintains it has no legal obligation under FOIA to keep most of the information private, AFBF says.
We support transparency and frequently advocate for increased government transparency," said AFBF President Bob Stallman. "But publicly sharing spreadsheet upon spreadsheet of tens of thousands of peoples' names, addresses and other personal information is not transparency in the workings of government – it is an invasion of the personal privacy of citizens."
AFBF says it does not necessarily object to the collection of aggregated data of farm and ranch business information for government use, but in the wrong hands personal location information could "disrupt farm activity and lead to farm equipment theft or even sabotage or criminal mischief, especially for those farms that store fertilizer and chemicals or have large numbers of animals on the farm," a statement noted.