EPA Again Puts Ag on Defense
Apr 01, 2013
The release of personal information on livestock and poultry producers earlier this year by EPA once again leaves agriculture in a defensive position. Responding to Freedom of Information Act requests by several activist groups like the Natural Resources Defense Council, Earth Justice and the Pew Charitable Trusts, EPA released information on livestock operations that included home addresses, phone numbers and email addresses. It’s one thing to release public information but in this case EPA seemed to go beyond what was required. The agency had refrained from such detailed releases in the past so what changed this time? Evidently even some EPA officials now admit that errors were made. While it’s possible an honest mistake was made it seems hard to believe there wasn’t more to it. It wouldn’t be the first time a government agency employee took advantage of their position to purposely advance a personal agenda. (i.e. the recent USDA memo on promoting meatless days in cafeterias) These things are usually very difficult to prove and whether intentional or not, livestock producers are left dealing with the potential consequences. When your home and your business are the same, you become more vulnerable in situations like this. Time will tell what those activist groups will do with the information. Meanwhile agriculture groups will try to keep something similar from happening again. The challenge they face, much like the question with GMO labeling, is trying to educate an uninformed public while answering the question "if you don’t have anything to hide, what’s the problem"? Accurately communicating that answer may be agriculture’s biggest challenge especially when some in our own government seem to have a different answer.