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From: TSS (
Date: January 21, 2005 at 1:35 pm PST

-------- Original Message --------
Date: Fri, 21 Jan 2005 09:02:14 -0600
From: "Terry S. Singeltary Sr."
Reply-To: Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy

##################### Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy #####################

State Govt.

Bill seeks to keep livestock records secret


January 21, 2005

State agriculture officials want to be allowed to keep secret certain
records dealing with the control of livestock diseases such as mad cow

Key lawmakers are unsure whether they want to take that step, which the
Iowa Department of Agriculture has requested.

Senate Study Bill 1023 would carve out an exception to Iowa's open
records law for any records related to livestock tracking programs that
aid in pinpointing and stopping animal disease outbreaks.

"The information may relate to an investigation, a person associated
with the animal, or an animal carcass. However, nothing in this
subsection restricts the department from releasing a record to any
person," the proposed law says.

It would still be up to the department to inform the public should an
outbreak occur.

Officials say the confidentiality is needed because of concerns about
agriterrorism and protecting sensitive farm business information that
could be exposed if records gathered as part a computerized animal
tracking system are made available for public inspection.

"We'll actually be able to do a better job of protecting the public by
locating where (diseased) animals have been," Jamie Cashman, a
department lobbyist, said of the tracking system that the federal
government is working with the states to establish.

The proposed change in the open records law is just now getting its
first look from legislators who say they need to know more before
agreeing to make any more exceptions to the law.

"I want their reasons for and against, because the livestock industry is
a vital part of this Iowa economy. Any outbreak of a disease, especially
foot and mouth disease, will result in people asking lots of questions.
That will make the information provided by public officials very
important," said Sen. David Johnson of Ocheyedan, Republican co-chairman
of the Senate Agriculture Committee, the first step for the legislation.

Sen. Gene Fraise of Fort Madison, the Democratic committee co-chairman,
said he has "some apprehensions about that, because I feel strongly the
public needs to know. But I can understand the business concerns."

Joel Brinkmeyer, executive vice president of the Iowa Cattlemen's
Association in Ames, said his group favors confidentiality because
farmers need to protect "management" information about their cattle
herds, such as pedigree and feedlot performance, that could become part
of a state or national computer database.

The cattlemen's association has not taken a position, however, on the
agriculture department's bill.

Similar federal legislation is pending in Congress, according to state

Senate Study Bill 1023 does not dictate what information must be
disclosed to the public when there is a disease outbreak. That's up to
the department to decide, said Cashman, the agency's legislative liaison.

Johnson said he wants to know what the state plan is for alerting the
public when any disease outbreak occurs.

The list of exceptions to the state's open records law has grown by
about 30 since the public records law was revised by the Legislature in
1984. Now there are nearly 50 types of records that must be kept
confidential under the law.

State lawmakers in recent years have voted to close records related to
autopsies, homeland security and school emergency procedures, among others.

The Iowa Senate Agriculture Committee is considering a bill that would
create an open records exception for information related to livestock
disease outbreaks.
The committee co-chairmen and their e-mail addresses are:
Gene Fraise, D-Fort Madison
David Johnson, R-Ocheyedan
In addition to Johnson, these senators are members of a subcommittee
considering Senate Study Bill 1023:
Dennis Black, D-Grinnell
John Putney, R-Gladbrook
Tom Hancock, D-Epworth
The bill is proposed by the Iowa Department of Agriculture. Secretary of
Agriculture Patty Judge can be reached at (515) 281-5321.


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