As journalists, one of the most integral tools of our job is the Freedom of Information Act. We can legally place FOIA requests for government records and information from organizations that would otherwise be classified to the public. A new bill, as part of the 2017 House Agricultural Bill, currently being backed and pushed by major beef, egg, and milk producers, would exempt big agriculture from FOIA requests.
The specific groups pushing for a media blackout are the marketing arms behind the famous “Beef: It’s What’s for Dinner” and “Got Milk?” campaigns. Currently, the USDA oversees these programs, but if Big Agro has its way, the new language in the bill would declassify these research and marketing divisions as under USDA jurisdiction, according to Fortune.
In other words, journalists looking to ask for government records on organizations like the American Beekeeping Federation, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the National Milk Producers Federation, the National Pork Producers Council, the United Egg Producers, and more, would not be able to do so.
“This is crony capitalism organized by Washington at its worst,” Sen. Mike Lee of Utah said in response to the new legislation.
According to the dozens of organizations that signed the letter pleading the USDA to keep this language in the new House Agricultural Bill, this elimination of FOIA requests would allow limited resources to be focused on research and promotion activities.