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Farmers worried by FOI request

Farmers worried by FOI request

An unknown entity has asked OMAFRA to release a list of registered farm businesses in the province

By Jackie Clark
Staff Writer
Farms.com

A unknown party recently submitted a freedom-of-information (FOI) request to the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA). And the province’s farmers and agricultural leaders are concerned.

The request asked for OMAFRA to release a “list of all Ontario businesses with a Farm Business Registration (FBR).” The unknown entity also wanted FBR numbers for those businesses, if possible.

Many individuals and groups within the ag industry feel this request is a breach of privacy and a threat to security.

“The Freedom of Information request is causing concern because of suspicions that the request may be coming from an animal activist group or individual. It’s possible that the requester of FBR information could intend to broadcast the locations of farm properties in order to organize protests,” said a July 10 statement from the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario.

The Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) urged members with an FBR to write to OMAFRA to express their opposition to the ministry granting this FOI request.

“When notified about the FOI request made to OMAFRA, OFA took immediate action on behalf of our 38,000 farm family members in an effort to maintain the privacy and security of those with a Farm Business Registration,” Keith Currie, OFA president, said in a July 23 statement. The organization’s leadership “communicated our awareness of the situation to members and immediately consulted legal counsel and sought advice on how our members could best respond to the FOI request.”

OMAFRA asked concerned producers with an FBR number to submit feedback by July 17. The ministry will issue a notice of decision to the requester by August 10, the OFA statement said.

Farmers who expressed their concerns to OMAFRA via e-mail received an automated reply, stating that the volume of responses was too great to respond to each individually.

“However, we wish to confirm with you that your feedback has been received, and will be taken into consideration by the ministry in its decision-making regarding this information request,” the e-mail response said. It was signed by Amber Davis, business services consultant for OMAFRA.

Farms.com has reached out to OFA for comment.

Deb Drury\iStock\Getty Images Plus photo

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