Thursday, November 08, 2007

Farm Bill provision would keep secret data relating to animal ID and diseases; journalists object

As debate heats up about commodity payments and other financial aspects of the Farm Bill, other provisions have drawn the opposition of journalists. The Society of Professional Journalists and 28 other journalism advocacy groups sent a letter to senators opposing provisions in the bill that would keep information about sick livestock from consumers and the media.

The outbreak of mad-cow disease among American livestock in 2003-04 prompted the creation of the National Animal Identification Service, which tracks an animal throughout its life. The Senate version of the bill would exempt the disclosure of this information to the public and would make reporters and publishers subject to fines for distributing NAIS information. SPJ and others contend that the provision violates the Open Government Act.

"The status and safety of the nation's agricultural infrastructure and ultimately our food supply is of vital public interest," SPJ President Clint Brewer said in a statement today. "Closing access to this information and even criminalizing the publication of it in certain instances is not in the best interest of a free press or the American people." (Read more)

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