Judge dismisses AFBF, NPPC lawsuit vs. EPA

by Erica Shaffer
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WASHINGTON – A federal judge in Minnesota dismissed a lawsuit to prevent the US Environmental Protection Agency releasing livestock producer information to the public.

The National Pork Producers Council and the American Farm Bureau Federal sued the EPA in 2013 after animal welfare groups requested EPA data under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The data includes addresses and other details about livestock farms. The industry argued releasing the information would violate their privacy and leave farm families vulnerable to harassment by animal welfare groups.

But US District Judge Ann Montgomery dismissed the lawsuit, ruling that the information the plaintiffs sought to protect is easily available through other sources such as the Internet. She noted that farmers volunteer information to promote their business.
 
In her ruling, Montgomery wrote "...establishing redressability, the third element of standing, will likewise be very difficult. Because the Plaintiffs’ member farmers’ information, including their physical addresses, is publicly available from multiple sources, Plaintiffs face a seemingly impossible task of showing that prohibiting the EPA’s distribution of already public information will redress the speculative injuries they currently allege. For all of these reasons, Plaintiffs do not have constitutional standing in this matter."

AFBF expressed disappointment at the ruling.

“Farmers, ranchers and citizens in general should be concerned about the court’s disregard for individual privacy,” said Bob Stallman, AFBF president. “This court seems to believe that the Internet age has eliminated the individual’s interest in controlling the distribution of his or her personal information. We strongly disagree.”

EPA already had released producer information before AFBF and NPPC went to court. The lawsuit was aimed at preventing further disclosures of rancher and farmer information in Minnesota, California, Idaho, Nevada, Oklahoma and Washington. NPPC and AFBF have 60 days to appeal Montgomery's decision.
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