Members of Congress Voice Opposition to Rep. Kind’s Anti-Privacy Amendment

June 11, 2014
Moments after Farm Policy Facts sent out a note urging members to vote no on Rep. Ron Kind’s (D-WI) anti-privacy amendment, the Dear Colleague letter below was distributed by Reps. Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Tom Rice (R-SC), and Henry Cuellar (D-TX). The Kind amendment is bad policy and should be rejected—as should all attempts to reopen the recently passed Farm Bill.
 
Protect Farmer’s Privacy and Property Rights
Vote against the Kind Amendment that Repeals
all Producer Privacy Protections under Crop Insurance

Dear Colleague:We are writing to urge you to oppose an amendment that may be offered by Rep. Ron Kind that would strip out all privacy protections for farmers and ranchers under the Federal Crop Insurance Act and seriously compromise the secure information of producers by granting universal access to this information.

As drafted, the Kind amendment would deny funding under the Act to “pay the salaries and expenses of any officers or employees of the Department of Agriculture to implement, enforce, or otherwise carry out section 502(c)(1) of the Federal Crop Insurance Act.” Section 502(c)(1) reads in relevant part as follows: “the Secretary, any other officer or employee of the Department or an agency thereof, an approved insurance provider and its employees and contractors, and any other person may not disclose to the public information furnished by a producer under this subtitle.”

The “information furnished by a producer under this subtitle” includes but is not limited to the producer’s name; address; phone number; cell phone number; email address; Social Security Number (including the Social Security Number of the spouse); Farm Serial Numbers; location of all farms by section, township, range, etc.; the name, Social Security Number, address, and interest of anyone the producer farms with; 10 years of history on the farm for each insurance unit; detailed maps of the farm or ranch; in some instances, particularly in the case of specialty crops, the farm operation’s payroll, grower contracts with buyers and prices received; and so on.

Under the Kind amendment, the Secretary, any USDA employee, any insurance company or company employee (as approved insurance providers), or any insurance agent (as a contractor) would be legally prohibited from denying the producer information outlined above to anyone that comes along and requests the information. The language of the Kind amendment is explicit: the Department may do nothing to “implement, enforce, or otherwise carry out” the current privacy law. This prohibition is also binding on its approved insurance providers and agents.

The Kind amendment flies in the face of the U.S. government’s most basic advice to citizens on how to protect their privacy and avoid identity theft. For instance, the website usa.gov states what should be obvious to everyone by now: “Only give out your SSN when absolutely necessary.” Yet, the Kind amendment would require that the Social Security Number of any farmer or rancher participating in Federal Crop Insurance be given to anyone who asks for it because that Social Security Number is “information furnished by a producer” under Federal Crop Insurance and the Department of Agriculture, companies, and agents are legally prohibited from protecting that information under the Kind amendment.

Although intended as a transparency amendment, at best this amendment is an environmental snoop group amendment and, at worst, it is threat to the privacy and identity protection of U.S. farmers and ranchers. The Kind amendment proposes the unlimited invasion of the privacy of farmers and ranchers in a day and age where identity theft and privacy concerns are on the rise, even to the point of violating web-based warnings by the federal government to U.S. citizens on how to protect their privacy and identity.

Current law already ensures that crop insurance information is available to the public in a form that meets transparency objectives while also protecting the privacy, identity, and private property rights of farmers and ranchers.

Please join us in safeguarding privacy and private property rights. Please join us in defeating the Kind amendment.

Sincerely,

Kevin Cramer
Member of Congress

Tom Rice
Member of Congress

Henry Cuellar
Member of Congress