In the land of the free, what’s your business apparently is also the government’s business. But once this private information is gathered, it’s assumed that the U.S. government will protect the confidentiality of its citizens; apparently that’s not so.
Earlier this year, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released private information about individual feedlots, including names, addresses, phone numbers, and even information on the deceased. This data wasn’t given to just anybody; it was released to environmental groups including Earth Justice, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Pew Charitable Trust.
These groups charged that this information should be made public, and the EPA turned over data on an estimated 80,000 farmers and ranchers, under a Freedom of Information Act request. While it’s uncertain how these groups plan to use this information, they believe that because farmers and ranchers manage waterways, they should have access to their personal information.
If farmers and ranchers weren’t already wary of the EPA -- based on its extreme regulatory bent (remember when they tried to regulate dust?) -- producers sure have a reason now to be downright distrusting and hostile to this agency. First, they try to regulate us out of business, then they try to sell us out.
While farmers and ranchers don’t have anything to hide, the spirit of the cowboy is one of independence – making a living on the land and the animals he tends to. He wants the freedom to work hard, make a living, raise a family and do so without government interference.
But now, extremists groups and bureaucrats sitting at dusty desks in Washington, D.C., think they know better regarding the cowboy’s job. The results are the intended, and sometimes unintended, consequences of regulations that are either based on knee-jerk emotional reactions to skewed media reports, or created with malice with the intent of putting agriculturalists out of business.
Call me dramatic, but the EPA’s release of personal data was a serious breach to our nation’s food security and an awful invasion of hard-working U.S. citizens’ privacy.
Initially, it was chalked up to hearsay as to whether EPA actually did release the information, but now the agency has admitted it, pledging to try to get the information back. But it’s too little, too late, and the backlash has begun.
According to Fox News, “Sen. John Thune (R-SD), who originally complained about the release, slammed the EPA for trying to retroactively recover the sensitive data.
"It is inexcusable for the EPA to release the personal information of American families and then call for it back, knowing full well that the erroneously released information will never be fully returned," he says. "While EPA acknowledged that it erred is a first step, more must be done to protect the personal information of our farmers and ranchers now and in the future. I will continue to demand answers from the EPA on how this information was collected and why it is still being distributed to extreme environmental groups to the detriment of our farm and ranch families.
“The EPA has threatened the health and safety of agriculture producers and their families and has damaged the security of our food system,” Thune adds.
“There is a growing gap of trust between America’s farm and ranch families and the EPA. Much of this lack of trust is due to EPA’s aggressive regulatory agenda.” J.D. Alexander, a Nebraska cattle farmer and former president of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA), says the information EPA released includes his family’s home address. “The only thing it doesn’t do is chauffeur these extremists to my house,” he says.
Thune sent a letter to EPA requesting the agency answer several questions, including whether EPA officials violated the federal Privacy Act of 1974. Regardless of what happens, that data will never be restored. It’s too late. I’m sure the EPA will get a slap on the hand and go back to their business of bullying farmers and ranchers, America’s land stewards.
What do you think about this violation? Am I reacting too strongly? Do you feel this was an inappropriate use of our personal information? Weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section below.
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