Senator John Thune
As South Dakota’s largest industry, agriculture is not only the economic engine of our rural communities, it also provides jobs and opportunities across the United States. More than two million farmers and ranchers work hard each day to provide our nation with a safe, abundant, and affordable food supply. However, one of the biggest obstacles facing agriculture, especially the ranching industry, is the regulatory overreach of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
All too often, this EPA engages in “sue and settle” agreements with environmental extremist groups that negatively impact production agriculture. Family farmers and ranchers in South Dakota and across the country endure criticism and are forced into costly legal battles thanks to environmental organizations who know little to nothing about agriculture or rural America. What they do know is litigation and intimidation. Rather than fighting to protect agriculture producers, the EPA will settle with the environmental groups, which only furthers EPA’s aggressive regulatory agenda.
Most recently, the EPA provided the environmental groups Earth Justice, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the environmental arm of the Pew Charitable Trusts personal producer information for 80,000 livestock farms around the country, including farms right here in South Dakota. While the records released by the EPA cover properties in more than 30 states, the information included more than 500 livestock operations in South Dakota. These records include the name of the operation, permit number, numbers and type of animals, and county of residence. In other states, the information released went so far as to give addresses, geographic coordinates, phone numbers, names and address of employees, and even listed deceased family members. All this information was turned directly over to groups that do not have agriculture’s best interest in mind.
What’s next? The EPA intends to create a national database of all livestock operations across the country, which reportedly will be made available through its website. Despite objections from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Homeland Security over bio-security concerns, the EPA continues to pursue this dangerous effort. Nowhere in law is the EPA required to obtain and display such personal information; on the contrary, the federal government should be protecting its citizens from unwarranted attacks. Instead, the EPA has threatened the health and safety of South Dakota’s ag producers and their families, and has decreased the security of our food system.I will continue working with our agriculture producers to get the answers they deserve and ensure that their privacy is protected in the future.