More about the Secrecy in the Farm Bill. I am so glad to see groups jumping on this.
Written on November 5, 2007 by Mich
From Tim Wheeler
President, Society of Environmental Journalists
Once again, it seems we have another pending federal action that could affect how we gather and report the news. Buried within the 2007 Farm Bill now before the Senate is a new exemption to the Freedom of Information Act, which is troubling enough, but the same provision also makes it a crime for anyone to disclose or “use” anything from the National Animal Identification System. The penalties can be severe, and in our reading of the bill it’s not at all clear that reporters or their employers can’t be prosecuted for publishing or broadcasting such information — some of which is already publicly available through other means.
Because agriculture and food safety are major issues for many journalists covering the environment, SEJ plans to send a letter to senators urging them to remove this provision from the Farm Bill. Other groups, notably OpentheGovernment.org, are writing senators as well, but we felt it important to speak as journalists without potential entanglements with other interest groups. The bill is scheduled for a floor debate and vote within days, so unfortunately there’s not a lot of time. I’m attaching a draft of our letter, which likely will get tweaked before sending. If you’d like to sign on, or want more info, please get back to me promptly.Download the DRAFT Letter HERE (PDF)