Right to Know Preserved in Final Version of Farm Bill

After months of conference negotiations, the Farm Bill has moved forward without the provisions that would have cut of public access to information about agricultural and livestock information.  The language, originally in the House-passed bill, would have prohibited disclosure of information about any owner, operator, or employee of an agricultural or livestock operation. The public, particularly the neighbors of these operations, require access to information about the operations to ensure their health and safety. The language was broad and vague and would have also extended the Freedom of Information Act’s personal privacy protections to corporate farms.

The leadership of Senator Patrick Leahy was key in removing the provisions in the final version. Thirteen organizations joined OpenTheGovernment.org to thank the Senator, a longtime champion for FOIA, for his work. Organizations also wrote to thank Congressmen Elijah Cummings and Henry Waxman, who sent a strong letter to Farm Bill conferees illustrating how the language would undermine the FOIA’s balanced approach to releasing information in the public interest.

The Farm Bill passed the House on January 29th, and is expected to be taken up by the Senate shortly.