GRAND ISLAND, Neb. — Republican Sens. Mike Johanns and Deb Fischer of Nebraska are co-sponsoring legislation introduced by Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from distributing personal information of farmers and ranchers.
Johanns said the Farmer Identity Protection Act is part of his ongoing effort to protect ag producers after the EPA’s distribution of private information to environmental groups earlier this year.
“I understand that EPA has a job to do, but that job isn’t enabling the harassment of farmers and ranchers trying to put food on the tables of families around the globe,” Johanns said.
In February, the EPA released to Earth Justice, the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Natural Resources Defense Council information on 80,000 livestock operations across the United States, including 3,500 in Nebraska, following Freedom of Information Act requests.
The information EPA provided included names, home addresses, personal telephone numbers and employee information — data that under federal law should have been confidential, Johanns said. EPA asked for the information to be returned so private information could be redacted. All the private information, however, was not redacted, and EPA again distributed the private data.
“Farmers and ranchers, many of whom live and raise their families on their operations, have every right to be outraged by the EPA’s actions that demonstrate a blatant disregard for their privacy and safety,” Fischer said.
Former National Cattlemen’s Beef Association President J.D. Alexander said that unlike other businesses, cattlemen and women live, work and raise their families on their operations. “We have a reasonable expectation of privacy on our private property, and there is no conceivable reason for the EPA to release this type of information,” he said.