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      Johanns, Fischer Sponsor Bill to Prevent EPA from Releasing Producer Information

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      U.S. Senators Mike Johanns and Deb Fischer are cosponsoring legislation to prevent the EPA from distributing producers' personal information.

      The Farmer Identity Protection Act aims to protect farmers and ranchers, following the EPA's distribution of private producer information to Earth Justice, the Pew Charitable Trust and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

      Confidential information of over 80,000 livestock operations was distributed following Freedom of Information Act requests. Much of the data, including names, homeaddresses, personal telephone numbers, and employee information, distributed tothe activist groups did not meet the definition of a Consolidated AnimalFeeding Operation, according to the senators.

      Johanns said in a statement Thursday following the bill's introduction, "I understand that EPA has a job to do, but that job isn't enabling the harassment of farmers and ranchers trying to put food on the tables of families around the globe."

      Johanns says this bill makes it crystal clear that such actions are unacceptable.

      Fischer added her sponsorship for the bill Friday, saying the bill takes the necessary steps to insure confidential producer information is kept private.

      She said in a statement following her announcement, "Farmers and ranchers, many of whom live andraise their families on their operations, have every right to be outraged bythe EPA's actions that demonstrate a blatant disregard for their privacy andsafety... The EPA's reckless behaviorin releasing this confidential information is just one of the latest instancesfor the hundreds of private citizens, families, and business owners in our statewho were affected."

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