Freedom of Information Act (Public Justice Foundation et al. v. Farm Service Agency)

Freedom of Information Act (Public Justice Foundation et al. v. Farm Service Agency)

Public Justice, Animal Legal Defense Fund, Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Food Safety, and Food and Water Watch sued the Farm Service Agency for their pattern and practice of violating the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

The government should not operate behind closed doors. That is why FOIA requires government transparency – federal agencies must make requested documents and data available to the public. The law enables civil society to hold the government accountable to serving the people, not multinational corporations.

Farm Service Agency (FSA) funds factory farms; however, the true extent of that funding is obfuscated by their unlawful withholding of information. Loans intended for small businesses fund industrial agriculture, causing unknown amounts of environmental harm. The government bankrolls agribusiness with taxpayer money at the expense of small farmers, surrounding communities, and the environment – and the public has the right to know to how much.

FSA exhibited a pattern and practice of withholding information that should be publicly available, violating its statutory obligation.

There was a systemic delay in FSA responses to plaintiffs’ FOIA requests. Documents the FSA did provide were so heavily redacted that they were illegible. And the agency regularly withheld thousands of pages of nonexempt information by broadly construing and misapplying FOIA’s limited exemptions. As a result, the FSA has obscured information that plaintiffs need to monitor the distribution of taxpayer dollars.

This case aims to give civil society the tools they need to check the federal government’s continued support of corporate-owned agriculture.

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