After much pressure, this week the Environmental Protection Agency finally acknowledged it released the personal information of thousands of farm families to radical environmental groups. Moving forward, I plan to hold EPA's feet to the fire to ensure farm families are not subjected to this kind of trust breach again.
The EPA turned over personal information like phone numbers, addresses and even geographic coordinates to environmentalists. An overwhelming majority of the information released appears to be from farms owned by families who may now face threats to their homes and businesses. I have serious concerns over the EPA's release of this information, particularly regarding individual privacy rights and possible bio-security threats to the nation's food supply. The fact of the matter is that the EPA should never have pursued a national searchable database in the first place, and they shouldn't be working with activist groups to pursue a backdoor route to accomplish the same goal.
Unfortunately, this release of information is yet another example of the EPA's overreach into the lives of hardworking individuals in rural America. As Chairman of the Agriculture Subcommittee on Livestock, Rural Development, and Credit, I led a group of 40 House members in writing a letter to the acting director of the EPA expressing our concerns and asking the acting director to ensure the released information is not improperly used. In the letter, we demand answers on why the EPA obtained producers' private information and, most importantly, what steps the agency will take to protect the affected producers while ensuring these actions will never happen again. Nearly a month after sending the letter to the EPA, we have not received a response.
In Arkansas, farming is a way of life. Agriculture is the number one industry in our First Congressional District and for many families it's a rich tradition. As Arkansas's only representative on the House Agriculture Committee, I fight each day to ensure farm families in our state can continue producing the safest, most abundant and reliable source of food on the planet. It is unacceptable for the EPA to do anything that could jeopardize our nation's food security or threaten American farm operations. The EPA must be held accountable for their actions and bureaucrats in Washington must consider the livelihoods of farm families and our nation's food-security before they cower to extreme environmental groups.