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Protective Order Issued in Suit to Stop EPA from Releasing Farmers’ Information

A federal district court in Minnesota recently issued a protective order prohibiting the EPA from releasing information about animal feeding operations—including farmers' names, home addresses, telephone numbers and email addresses, as well as the GPS coordinates of farms. The protective order comes on the heels of the court's decision to dismiss a case filed by the American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Pork Producers Council.

The case began when the EPA received two Freedom of Information Act requests for information about tens of thousands of livestock and poultry farms. The court dismissed the case against the EPA, reasoning that the information was already publicly available from multiple sources. A search of the Internet or Facebook, for example, would disclose much of the information. The court therefore concluded that farmers would not be harmed by the EPA's disclosure of the same information. The protective order stops the EPA from releasing the information while the case is appealed.

AFBF President Bob Stallman is pleased with the protective order. He has said, "We disagree that the Internet age has diminished the individual's right to protect personal information. Now, more than ever, citizens need their government to help protect their information—not gather it, tie it in a bow, and send it out to anyone who asks."

© 2020 Varnum LLPNational Law Review, Volume V, Number 68

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About this Author

Aaron M. Phelps, Varnum, litigation attorney
Partner

For over 15 years, Aaron's practice has been focused on complex commercial and environmental litigation - in Michigan and around the country. Aaron has represented clients in contract and corporate governance disputes, telecommunications and energy matters, health care litigation, and tort actions.

Over the last five years, Aaron has represented over 200 companies in lawsuits against Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan for ERISA violations. The first trial resulted in a $6 million judgment, and subsequent judgments ranged from $315,000 to over $8 million. Currently...

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