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Agriculture data public or private?

Published (3/13/2009)
By Lee Ann Schutz
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The Agriculture Department relies on farmer participation in various efforts to collect data about land use, agricultural practices and natural resources management. However, farmers can be reluctant to give out information because their identity and land locations could then be considered public information. A temporary embargo went into effect last February making certain information private that would otherwise be considered public.

Because the provision will sunset June 1, 2009, Rep. Joe Mullery (DFL-Mpls) sponsors HF1095 that would amend the state’s Data Practices Act and create a presumption that certain data collected by the department during research or monitor-assessment be classified as private. That could include: names, addresses, telephone numbers and e-mail addresses of study participants or cooperators; and the location of a research study site and global positioning data. However, private/nonpublic data could be disclosed with permission of the subject or if the department deems that withholding data seriously threatens human health or the environment or hinders law enforcement.

The bill was approved March 9 by the House Agriculture, Rural Economies and Veterans Affairs Committee and now awaits action by the House Civil Justice Committee.

Its companion, SF1247, sponsored by Sen. Don Betzold (DFL-Fridley), awaits action by the Senate Agriculture and Veterans Committee.

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