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)

FarmSTAND (formerly the Food Project at 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 Farm Service Agency (FSA) funds factory farms; however, the true extent of that funding is obfuscated by their withholding of information. Loans intended for small businesses instead fund industrial agriculture, which has significantly different implications for the surrounding community and environment. 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. The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) aims to foster government transparency by requiring federal agencies to make requested documents and data available to the public.

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.

A judge from the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California granted our motion in part, holding the public should have access to government loan information and ordering the FSA to fulfill our FOIA requests.


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