Home > Uncategorized > Murphy Department of Agriculture Denies Public Record Request For Data On Extent Of Bird Flu Virus At NJ Farms

Murphy Department of Agriculture Denies Public Record Request For Data On Extent Of Bird Flu Virus At NJ Farms

Secrecy Hides Extent Of The Problems And Risks To Public Health

Federal USDA Reliance On Voluntary Sampling Has Failed

The Murphy administration’s Department of Agriculture just denied my public records request for data on sampling for bird flu at NJ dairy and poultry farms (and cows milk).

I filed that data request because recent national news reports document serious flaws with the US Department Of Agriculture’s (USDA) national voluntary sampling program for dairy farms, cows, and milk.

For example, Politico reported:

Reliance on individual dairy farmers to help track the spread of avian flu is leaving the federal government without the data necessary to understand — and slow — the virus’ spread in the U.S. […]

… many dairy farmers are declining to test their cows, leaving the nation vulnerable to a situation in which federal officials won’t have adequate warning if the virus evolves and poses a greater risk of infection to people.

The federal response is largely focusing on voluntary efforts by farmers to help track and contain the outbreak. But many farms still have not signed up for USDA efforts to boost surveillance and testing for the virus.

The NJ Dept. of Agriculture’s denial of public access to this information highlights flaws in the NJ Open Public Records Act (OPRA). It is also an abuse of power in keeping this critical public health data secret.

The public has a right to know about this information, as it involves direct threats to their health.

Secrecy allows State bureaucrats to avoid accountability and hide their potential mismanagement of these risks.

The public has no ability to understand if the NJ Dept. of Ag is replicating the same flaws as the failed USDA national program that scientists have criticized.

The Dept. of Ag denial was issued by Robert Vivian, who wrote:

Mr. Wolfe,

Your records request W219658 is denied under N.J.A.C. 2:10-2.3.

 N.J.A.C. 2:10-2.3. Records designated confidential

In addition to records designated as confidential pursuant to the provisions of the Open Public Records Act (OPRA), N.J.S.A. 47:1A-1et seq., any other law, rule, Executive Order, or complete (final) and intermediate (interim) reports, including necropsy reports, shall not be considered government records subject to public access pursuant to OPRA.


Robert P. Vivian, Jr.

I didn’t ask for “necropsy reports” or “complete (final) and intermediate (interim) reports”. I asked for data.

I even agreed to redaction of the name of the farm, to protect farmer’s privacy.

This is outrageous and a totally unacceptable abuse of OPRA.

I’m calling on NJ media to investigate and the Legislature to conduct oversight on these issues.

The public health community should weigh in as well and pressure Gov. Murphy to open us his State agencies and stop the secrecy.

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