Lawmakers seek answers over CAFO information release

Earlier this month a group of 39 House members sent a letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), requesting information on its release of potentially sensitive information related to confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) to animal right advocate organizations.

According to U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.), EPA released sensitive information about livestock and poultry farmers without reviewing the data to determine if it included confidential business information protected by federal privacy laws or withheld for national security concerns. 

Previously, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) said it was was notified by EPA that CAFO information collected from states was released through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to Earth Justice, the Pew Charitable Trust and the Natural Resources Defense Council. The information released by EPA covers CAFOs in more than 30 states, including many family farmers and ranchers who feed less than 1,000 head and are not subject to regulation under the Clean Water Act. 

"In an unprecedented intrusion into the lives and businesses of America's agricultural producers, the Environmental Protection Agency reportedly released sensitive information about Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) to environmental groups,” Yoho said. "Many in the agricultural community were blindsided by the move.

"Not long ago, the EPA began a rulemaking process to collect and disseminate sensitive information of livestock operations,” Yoho continued. ”But, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Agriculture voiced concerns over bioterrorism risks and the threat of targeted harassment of family farmers and ranchers if a national, searchable database was created. Congress was advised that the EPA had abandoned this idea only to learn recently that they hadn't.

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