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Karl Guenther Column: Trust no one lesson still useful today


I am happy in my conviction that the following story of “Trust” is just that - - a story.  It tells of a father who sets his young son on the dining room table, then urges him to jump, promising to catch him.  After much cajoling and many fervent assurances, the youngster finally does jump - - only to fall hard to the floor as the father deliberately steps back.  “Let that be a lesson to you”, the father says - - “never trust anybody - - not even your father.”

In the livestock industry of this country, there’ll be producers who readily substitute government for father, as the Environmental Protection Agency violates the long-standing privacy principle established by the Department of Agriculture.  The latter, in the Census of Agriculture, collects a lot of sensitive information from agriculture producers in order to maintain some semblance of understanding as to what’s going on in agriculture - - and promises - guarantees - to maintain confidentiality.

Now comes the Environmental Protection Agency - not directly affiliated with the Census of Agriculture, but also a federal government agency, blowing the lid off critical, sensitive information regarding U.S. Livestock production.  EPA says it has granted a Freedom of Information Act request, providing such groups as Earth Justice and the Natural Resources Defense Council with information the EPA has been collecting from states on Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations.  National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Past President  J.D. Alexander says the information details his own family home address and geographic coordinates.

All this becomes rather messy and complicated, as is the case with most things governmental, but the livestock people paint what to me is a pretty grim picture of the advisability of never trusting anybody.

The livestock people were joined by Homeland Security in expressing concerns about making this information generally available; citing the possibility of aiding and abetting terrorism by providing a route by which our national food supply could be threatened.  EPA complied, in that it withdrew the Clean Water Act authority to collect the CAFO data, but went ahead and packaged what information it had, and provided the information to the antagonists.

National Pork Producers Council President R.C. Hunt says there’s also concern with ability of those opposed to modern livestock and poultry farms to manipulate the data to advance their extremist agendas.  It’s ironic, Hunt says, that in the name of transparency - EPA released the information, but did so in secrecy.  EPA, he says, has violated the privacy right of farmers across the country.

I expect there are farmers around the country saying to their offspring - - “Let this be a lesson - - never trust anybody - including the government.”

Karl Guenther is a retired Kalamazoo farm broadcaster and can be reached at khguenther@att.net. He is a member of Michigan Farm Bureau and an emeritus member of the National Association of Farm Broadcasting.