Court Reverses Ban on Farm Data Releasees

March 12, 2008

The U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, DC, ruled Feb. 15, 2008, that the public had a legitimate interest in data from some previously unreleased Agriculture Department databases - clearing the way for their release.

The Appeals Court overturned a lower court ruling that farmers listed in the databases had a right to privacy that should keep the databases from being disclosed.

The case was written up in the News Media Update published by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

"Multi Ag Media LLC submitted a FOIA request to the USDA in July 2005, asking the Farm Service Agency to release 13 databases pertaining to its subsidy and benefit program," NMU reported. "The USDA, in turn, released some of the data, but withheld other files by invoking FOIA Exemption 6, which protects the 'personnel and medical files and similar files the disclosure of which would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.'"