Court rules EPA violated privacy of farmers, ranchers By Shala Watson Staff Writer The personal privacy of tens of thousands of farmers and ranchers was violated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), according to a ruling issued by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. The unanimous ruling came in mid-September. It’s a victory for farmers and ranchers across the U.S. who say the data exposed them to ha-rassment, trespassing and threats. The case, American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) and the Nation-al Pork Producers Council (NPPC) vs. EPA , stemmed from the federal agency’s 2013 release of personal information to three environmen-tal groups—Earthjustice, the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Natural Resources Defense Council. The two agricultural groups suc-cessfully argued in a July 2013 law-suit that EPA overstepped its bounds by releasing names, phone numbers, addresses, emails and GPS coordi-nates of farmers and ranchers with controlled animal feeding operations in 29 states. “This ruling by the Eighth Circuit shows that farmers’ privacy inter-ests and their personal information far outweighs the public interest when the EPA is disclosing spread-sheets that reveal nothing about EPA’s activities,” Regan Beck, direc-tor of Government Affairs for Texas Farm Bureau, originally told the San Antonio Express-News. Although Texas was not among the states affected by the information released, Beck noted this ruling pro-vides the support farmers and ranch-ers in the Lone Star State need to ensure their information is protected. The environmental groups had ﬁled a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to gain access to the private information of farmers and ranchers. EPA claimed it was required to disclose the information under FOIA. EPA notiﬁed agricultural stake-holders after releasing the informa-tion, and the groups immediately raised concerns and claimed the re-lease of information triggered pri-vacy concerns. “EPA’s release of sensitive, pri-vate and personal materials on more than 100,000 farmers and ranchers was an outrageous abuse of its power and trust,” NPPC President John We-ber said in a statement. “We are very pleased with the Court of Appeals’ de-cision to reinstate our lawsuit to pre-vent the EPA from doing this again.” The court said the EPA violated Exemption 6 of the Act, which for-bids releasing data that would con-stitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy. “This was an unwarranted inva-sion of personal privacy by a federal agency in violation of law,” AFBF General Counsel Ellen Steen said in a statement. “The court’s decision is a vindication of the right of farm families to control their own person-al information. Farmers and ranch-ers have a strong privacy interest in their personal information, including their home address, even when they live and work on the farm. “This case assures us that individ-uals still have a privacy interest in their personal information. The fact that government agencies may have that information and even store it on the Internet does not eliminate the individual’s privacy interest.” According to the court, “EPA’s re-lease of the complete set of data on a silver platter, so to speak, basically hands to the requestors a compre-hensive database of their own, what-ever their motives might be.” “EPA now has to ‘recall’ all of the personal information it unlawfully released, but unfortunately that in-formation has now been in the hands of the FOIA requestors for three years, and many feel that the dam-age is done,” Steen said. “AFBF will continue to work to ensure that per-sonal information about farmers and ranchers is not disclosed by EPA.” But the case isn’t over yet. The federal agency also withheld infor-mation from seven more states pend-ing the outcome of the litigation. The Eighth Circuit sent the case back to the lower court. Protect your livestock & crops from destructive, invasive feral swine! Feral swine carry diseases which affect people, livestock, and companion animals. They damage property, destroy crops, and contaminate water! O CTOBER 7 , 2016 AUSTIN BOBCAT OF AUSTIN 512-251-3415 SAN ANTONIO BOBCAT OF SAN ANTONIO 210-337-6136 qualityequipmentco.net For more information on managing feral swine damage contact USDA Wildlife Services in your area at 1-866-4USDA-WS. www.aphis.usda.gov/wildlife-damage/stopferalswine 6 It's hard to believe you can take the best loader in the industry and make it better. But that's exactly what Bobcat has done. Our loaders off er more cab space, improved visibility, increased fuel capacity and more. It's increased comfort and performance all across the board. Bobcat® and the Bobcat logo are trademarks of Bobcat Company.