A proposal to shield some farmers’ and ranchers’ information has state House approval.
The bill would keep state agencies and department heads from releasing data collected on farmers’ livestock, environmental impacts of their farms, their cell phone numbers and addresses, and other information, despite Missouri’s open records law, except in connection to an animal disease outbreak.
Bill sponsor Jay Houghton (R-Martinsburg) says it’s an answer to something that’s happened before.
“There was an animal rights group that sent out freedom of information or sunshine requests to several states from their DNRs,” said Houghton.
Representative Tracy McCreery (D-St. Louis) thinks it’s a bad idea to limit the public’s access to information, and doesn’t like that it would allow farmers whose information is otherwise released to sue the agency or person who released it.
“That’s where I think it’s going to have a chilling effect and my concern as a policy maker is we’re going to miss some opportunities to educate the public about some things that might be going on environmentally, or health-wise, or safety-wise,” said McCreery.
“Missourians have a reason to be concerned about farms – specifically large factory farms,” said McCreery, “but by making data unaccessable and unavailable to the public it casts a shadow over all the businesses that are doing things the right way.”
Representative Warren Love (R-Osceola) argues it will keep private and proprietary information from being released.
“It will keep data about how many kids somebody’s family has, or how many vehicles they have, or what their telephone numbers is – this is the information we don’t want to cross the line and let become funneled out and spread about,” said Love.
The bill moves on to the Senate.