The National Pork Producers Council and the American Farm Bureau Federation appealed a federal district court’s dismissal of their lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over its release of millions of pieces of personal information on tens of thousands of American farmers.
In January, the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota ruled that the two organizations were unable to show standing that the release of the information would harm their members. By dismissing the suit, the court ruled that farmers are not harmed when the government compiles and releases a storehouse of personal information, so long as individual bits of that information are somehow publicly accessible, such as through an Internet search or on a Facebook page.
Information from farms in 30 states, first released in February 2013, in some instances contained farmers’ home addresses, phone numbers, e-mail addresses and personal medical information.
A federal district court in Minnesota ordered EPA on Feb. 6 not to release farmers’ and ranchers’ personal information while AFBF and NPPC appeal the court’s decision dismissing their lawsuit.
“We are pleased that farmers’ and ranchers’ personal information will be protected while we appeal the court’s decision,” AFBF president Bob Stallman said. “We disagree that the Internet age has diminished the individual’s right to protect personal information. Now, more than ever, citizens need their government to help protect their information—not gather it, tie a bow on it, and send it out to anyone who asks.”
The data was issued by EPA’s Office of Water to the Natural Resources Defense Council, Earth Justice and the Pew Charitable Trusts under Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests the groups filed.
After objections from NPPC, AFBF and other farm groups, EPA requested that the environmental organizations return the data but reissued it after redacting some of the information. The reissued data still contained some personal information on farmers.
NPPC and AFBF filed suit against EPA in July 2013, when the agency was set to release more data on farmers.