Citing their status as non-government agencies, United Egg Producers, the Cattleman’s Association, and the National Pork Producers Council are petitioning Congress for exemption from the Freedom of Information Act—a transparency measure wherein federally backed companies and other organizations must turn over internal documents for inspection upon public request. This petition follows last year’s scandal wherein vegan company Hampton Creek utilized the Freedom of Information Act to obtain incriminating emails from the American Egg Board (AEB)—a checkoff program in which animal-product producers use pooled funds to create campaigns around their shared commodity. The emails revealed that a concerted effort was in play between different organizations—including Unilever, AEB, and the US Food and Drug Administration—to illegally thwart the competing vegan company for the omission of eggs in its Just Mayo product. In 2005, similar groups asked the Supreme Court of the United States to recognize them as “government speech” since they rely upon government authority to collect mandatory fees from members. “Now that some of their blatantly improper dealings have been exposed via FOIA,” FOIA specialist Ryan Shapiro told media outlet The Guardian, “instead of cleaning up their acts, these boards are attempting to exempt themselves from FOIA altogether. These boards are sorely in need of greater transparency and must not be allowed to shroud their already opaque dealings with even more secrecy.” The proposed FOIA exclusion was approved by The House Appropriations Commitee on April 19 and is currently under consideration to be officially signed into legislation.
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