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The FOI Advocate is a compendium of ideas, edited story excerpts and other materials from a variety of Web sites, as well as original concepts and analysis. When the information comes directly from another source, it will be attributed and a link will be provided whenever possible. The blog relies on the accuracy and integrity of the original sources cited. We will correct errors and inaccuracies when we become aware of them.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

An FOI Exemption for Big Pork?

Passing along this troubling item from the Society of Environmental Journalists:


Since 2005 the US Department of Agriculture has been compiling a database called the National Premises Information Repository, containing what the agency characterizes as bare-bones "phone book" information on commercial livestock farms: name, address, telephone number, and type of animals raised.

Some agency officials and federal lawmakers would like to make this routine information exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act. There are two examples of such FOIA exemptions in legislation introduced in the 110th Congress:

  • HR 2301, Sections 4 and 6, sponsored by Rep. Steve King,(R-IA).
  • HR 1018, Section 2, sponsored by Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO).
These bills' proposed extension of secrecy to routine farm contact information would hamper the future creation of such valuable research tools as the map of concentrated animal feeding operations released earlier this year by Food & Water Watch.

In addition, both H.R. 2301 and H.R. 1018 could adversely impact state open-government laws because the bills purport to pre-empt any state laws that would permit disclosure of the farm names and addresses. Thus, while neither of these bills is presently under active consideration, they bear watching due to their potential to damage the public availability of information.

(This article was written by Christine Heinrichs, with Mary Zanoni. Both are SEJ members.)

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