After being hit with a barrage of criticism, EPA has pushed the stunning claim that all personal information released has been “returned.” Despite no heads rolling and no concise explanation offered, EPA believed the matter was closed.
“However, an August 2013 newsletter from Food & Water Watch stated that the FOIA documents had been “shared with several organizations, including Food & Water Watch. On April 4, 2013, the EPA took the uncharacteristic move of asking for the original set of documents back due to pressure from the livestock industry and Congress, offering a limited subset of the documents as a replacement. Food & Water Watch declined to return the original documents to EPA.” It’s unclear how widely the unredacted records were distributed, or who has retained them.”
EPA’s farmer privacy issues, far from settled, are headed to court with the National Pork Producers Council and the American Farm Bureau Federation trying to stop more data breaches by suing the EPA.
The release of private farmer data, particularly when the threat of agroterror is a genuine concern, is a matter of grave consequence. In 2013, R.C. Hunt, then NPPC president, summed up the debacle: “What’s ironic is that, in the name of transparency, EPA released information in secret and violated the privacy rights of farmers across the country.”
For more, see Jillian Kay Melchior’s The EPA’s Privacy Problem