BILLS PROPOSE FOIA EXEMPTIONS FOR BASIC FEEDLOT "PHONE BOOK" LISTINGS
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).
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.)