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Thursday, October 23, 2014

EPA releases personal info on farmers

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Posted: Friday, May 3, 2013 12:00 am | Updated: 8:04 am, Fri May 3, 2013.

I have a cousin that I haven’t heard from in a long time that contacted me recently. She heard about our farm and she was interested in what we did, particularly our winter farming activities.

It turns out that she is a radical environmentalist, and she started sending me emails with stories from and links to bizarre web sites making all kinds of wild claims. Apparently things like scientific proof are old-fashioned concepts.  I tried to be nice about it at first, suggesting why some of these things might not be true.  But the emails kept coming, and I finally quit reading them. We believe in the good stewardship of natural resources and sustainability as a goal, but most of what she sent me was simply irresponsible.

I was tempted to laugh about my cousin. I then saw a report on FoxNews.com that the Environmental Protection Agency has acknowledged that it released the personal information on 80,000 farmers to the environmental groups Earth Justice, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Pew Charitable Trust.  Suddenly this isn’t funny anymore.

Once again, there has been almost nothing reported about what the EPA did. As I said last week, I guess journalists these days are too busy writing about Honey Boo Boo and Carnival cruise ships to cover unimportant things like what the EPA is doing.  One more reason why this column is a must-read.

It was an investigation by Sen. John Thune of South Dakota that uncovered what the EPA did. The EPA has now also admitted that what it did was wrong. In a statement to FoxNews.com Sen. Thune said, “It is inexcusable for the EPA to release the personal information of American families . . .  While EPA acknowledging that it erred is a first step, more must be done to protect the personal information of our farmers and ranchers now and in the future. I will continue to demand answers from the EPA on how this information was collected and why it is still being distributed to extreme environmental groups to the detriment of our farm and ranch families.”

Sen. Thune went on to say, “The EPA has threatened the health and safety of agriculture producers and their families and has damaged the security of our food system.  There is a growing gap of trust between America’s farm and ranch families and the EPA.”

The environmental groups wanted this information because they do not believe that the EPA is doing enough to enforce the Clean Water Act.  The implication, in case you missed it, is that the EPA is deputizing radical environmental groups for the enforcement of environmental laws against farmers.

J.D. Alexander, a Nebraska cattle farmer and former president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, said on the BeefUSA.org web site, “It is beyond comprehension to me that with threats to my family from harassment atop bio-security concerns, that EPA would gather this information only to release it to these groups.  This information details my family’s home address and geographic coordinates; the only thing it doesn’t do is chauffeur these extremists to my house.”

Most of the time, I feel truly blessed that I got a chance to do what I’m doing.  But other times it is hard not to get discouraged by the burdens imposed on farmers by government – including next door in Fauquier.  I now think I understand how David felt when he looked across the battlefield and saw Goliath and the entire Philistine army with their shiny armor and bronze spears.  One day soon my cousin could be regulating my farm.  There is a cheery thought.

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The downtown Culpeper Farmers’ Market started last weekend and will be held every Saturday morning from 7:30am to noon at the corner of East Davis and Commerce Streets.

Bryant Osborn and his wife Terry own Corvallis Farms in Culpeper County.  His column on fresh and locally grown food runs every Friday.  He can be reached at bryant@corvallisfarms.com.

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