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Lawmakers Seek to Conceal Livestock Feedlot Operations from Consumers

From: THE AGRIBUSINESS EXAMINER
February 8, 2005, Issue #393
Monitoring Corporate Agribusiness


>From a Public Interest Perspective

EDITOR\PUBLISHER; A.V. Krebs
E-MAIL: avkrebs@earthlink.net
WEB SITE: http://www.ea1.com/CARP/
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NORTH DAKOTA LAWMAKERS SEEK "SECRET FEEDLOT" AND "SECRET COW" LEGISLATION

DALE WETZEL, ASSOCIATED PRESS [ February 4, 2005 ]: A group of rural
lawmakers wants to keep details about cattle and hog feedlots off-limits to
the public, saying the current system could allow terrorists to gain access
to the U.S. food supply.

North Dakota legislators are considering "secret feedlot" and "secret cow"
bills, which would make feedlot records, and information gathered as part of
any animal identification program, privileged information.

Rep. Jon Nelson said that if Health Department feedlot records continue to
be public, it "would make it very easy for terrorists to come into this
country and upset our food supply."

Wade Moser, a spokesman for the North Dakota Stockmen's Association, said
cattle numbers and feedlot designs don't need to be public.

"To me, it's almost a far-fetched thing to even think about, but when you
have the information on cattle numbers, and specific locations ... those
kinds of things are probably valuable to someone who really wants to do
damage," Moser said.

Jack McDonald, an attorney for North Dakota newspapers and broadcasters,
says the terrorism argument is weak.

"I don't think it takes rocket science to figure out where a feedlot is," he
said.

A one-page feedlot bill, sponsored by Nelson, says the Health Department
must keep a feedlot application out of public view unless it is requested by
a state or federal agency, a prosecutor or a judge.

People who want information would be given only the applicant's name and
address.

David Glatt, the Health Department's environmental section chief, said such
restrictions would conflict with federal rules that require public hearings
on feedlot proposals.

A feedlot can be a contentious project locally, but satisfying citizen
demands for information can be beneficial in the long run, Glatt said.

"It is our experience that this process results in permits that are
defensible, not only in a court of law, but the court of public opinion," he
said.

People who live near feedlots often want information about the number of
animals involved and programs for waste disposal and odor prevention,
McDonald said.

"If you're going to have a feedlot of any kind located in your vicinity, you
want to know, 'How many cattle are going to be fed there? How many pigs?"'
he said.

Wayne Gieselman, the division administrator for environmental services at
Iowa's Department of Natural Resources, said Iowa makes public the location
and number of animals in livestock confinement facilities.

"The only thing that's protected is the actual application records they keep
for how and where they spread manure," said Gieselman. The manure provision
was passed years ago amid arguments over whether it was a trade secret, he
said.

"The terrorism argument goes to highly contagious things that would be
devastating to the livestock industry, but we really haven't had people
making that argument," Gieselman said. "It's not too hard for terrorists to
drive around the country and find a confinement facility."