From ag-gag to ag-shield:
A provision in the N.C. Farm Act of 2014 passed by the legislature last week will shield complaints made against farming operations from public view, effectively exempting them from state open records laws. This is wrong. We appreciate farmers and the food they provide for us. But, especially as large farming operations edge out small family farms, environmental protections are needed. And the public has a right to know how those protections are faring.
Supporters of the provision say it will deter frivolous complaints. But Justin Quinlivan, an investigator with the Yadkin Riverkeeper, told the Journal that the provision would protect the agriculture industry from scrutiny, leave the public in the dark, and decrease citizen complaints about violations that may threaten public health and safety. He voiced another concern: The provision would give investigating agencies unfettered discretion on whether complaints even should be investigated.
I'd like to see some stats on just how many "frivolous" complaints are actually filed. If a farm is polluting, but not as much as the person filing the complaint thinks it is, that is not "frivolous." And numerous investigations have shown these big operations inevitably pollute to a certain degree, even the ones who make a genuine effort to scale it down.