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New Legislation Limits Public Access to Agricultural Records

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Idaho News page, Politics and Democracy page, Factory Farms page, Farm Issues page, and our USDA Watch page.

Three years ago, Alma Hasse walked purposely, head down, toward a red brick building. The Jerome County Courthouse held a mountain of files on the county's dairy CAFOs, or concentrated animal feeding operations, and Hasse wanted a look at them. She and her agricultural watchdog group, Idaho Concerned Area Residents for the Environment believed that Idaho's factory farms weren't being adequately monitored or regulated. That's why she and a small group of her members burst into the county offices on that dreary December afternoon, requesting to see the CAFO records. But it soon became clear the group wouldn't get what it wanted.

The office staff, caught off guard and obviously not prepared to respond to that rare and forceful request for files, complied hesitantly, but within minutes Jerome County Commissioner Charlie Howell and County Planner Nancy Marshall arrived and asked the group to give the records back.

Faces reddened, voices rose and soon a Jerome County cop arrived, looking as confused as everyone else. Marshall said the county simply didn't have an employee available to sit with the group as they pored over files. Hasse's daughter, Shavan, demanded that Marshall cite the county code allowing her to withhold the requested documents. Marshall couldn't. The confrontation devolved into an awkward standoff and eventually the ICARE group shuffled out of the building having only glimpsed the files.

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