NCBA and the National Pork Producers Council are both furious with EPA for handing extremist groups illegally gathered data on farmers who operate confined animal feeding operations.
NCBA said early this week it was notified by the EPA that the agency had been collecting information from states on CAFOs. The 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 request and was given to them.
The information released by EPA covers livestock operations in more than 30 states, including many family farmers who feed less than 1,000 head and are not subject to regulation under the Clean Water Act.
"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, Nebraska.
"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."
The problem had recent roots in January 2012 when 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.
Beef producers and even the Department of Homeland Security expressed concerns this was a serious overreach of EPA's authority and would create a road map for activists to harass individual families. They also said the proposal would aid and abet terrorism and provide a very real threat to the nation's food security.
The Pork Producers said the regulation was the result of a 2010 "sweetheart" deal between EPA and the environmental groups. It says the deal was struck while EPA and livestock and poultry producers were in the middle of a lawsuit brought by NPPC over EPA's 2008 CAFO rule, which required large livestock and poultry operations that "propose to" or that "might" discharge into waterways to obtain Clean Water Act permits. A federal appeals court ruled that the CWA requires permits only for farms that actually discharge.
EPA withdrew the 308 rule on these grounds but then indicated it still wanted to collect data on CAFOs to "more effectively carry out its CAFO permitting programs on a national level and ensure that CAFOs are implementing practices to protect water quality and human health."
NPPC said EPA then gathered the data from state water agencies without informing them about its intention to share the information with outside groups, including through a searchable national database.
NCBA said it has since learned that EPA still intends to use this gathered data to create a national searchable database of livestock operations, despite earlier objections and apparent agreements.
Alexander said this action by EPA just proves that our nation says it is concerned with national security, but does not care about personal small business security.
"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," Alexander fumed.
With USDA threatening to shut down meat inspection to control spending, Alexander asked, how can EPA afford to compile all this data?