Community Agriculture Alliance: What happens here, stays here |

Community Agriculture Alliance: What happens here, stays here

Groups work to ensure confidential information is protected

Leellen Koroulis/For the Steamboat Today

— Information technology is moving at a much faster pace than is the legislation to protect how that information may be shared or disseminated. The recent release of highly sensitive documents through the WikiLeaks website illustrates the vulnerability of confidential information and the potential damage that security failure can cause. In a sense, the WikiLeaks documents were a wallet lying on the sidewalk. We don’t have laws that make clear when picking up the digital wallet is stealing. Neither our government nor our largest corporate institutions can offer much assurance that our confidential information or even our identity is safe from malicious or thoughtless data access.

At its convention in fall, Rocky Mountain Farmers Union adopted a new policy “urging the Colorado Department of Agriculture to take immediate steps to guarantee that information on agricultural operations be treated as confidential information and never be released to private or public entities or be shared with other government entities except as needed in the case of a national emergency.”

During that same period, Colorado Independent Cattle­­Growers Association was working hard with its lobbyist to find a sponsor to introduce a bill that would protect livestock producer information collected by the Colorado Department of Agriculture so that any database the department created with that data could not be merged or shared with any other state, federal or foreign government, industry partner or other database.

Rocky Mountain Farmers Union and the Colorado Independent CattleGrowers Association want to ensure that the bill would not interfere with the protection of human or animal health. Through its lobbyist, Colorado Independent CattleGrowers Association negotiated this bill with the department, and as far as we know, the department does not oppose the bill. Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg, chairman of the House Agricultural Committee, saw the merits of the bill and is the bill’s House sponsor. HB11-1111 was scheduled to be read in the House Agricultural Committee on Monday.

When asked his opinion of the bill, Dr. John Maulsby, former Colorado State Veter­inarian, stated, “On first read, I think it is very well written and covers the important issues for producers. The principle of requiring our state animal health official to have control of a disease investigation is reinforced. That person should be responsible for protecting this information and for controlling who needs to access it in an animal disease investigation.”

This bill is important for everyone who owns livestock or operates a farm or ranch as a small business in the state of Colorado.

We still have a long way to go with this bill as it weaves its way through the committees and the chambers at the Capitol. If we are successful, then agricultural producers can be confident that what happens in Colorado stays in Colorado.

Leellen Koroulis is president of the Northwest Colorado Farmers Union.

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