So much for the information age: Some U.S. lawmakers are trying to limit access to data on the federal government’s farm subsidy program. Last fall, the nonprofit Environmental Working Group touched off a political firestorm by posting on the Internet a database of farm subsidy recipients from 1996 to 2000. Information on the site was used by senators in a debate that resulted in a vote to reduce maximum farm subsidies by 40 percent. Now EWG says both chambers of Congress are crafting language for the Farm Bill that would restrict public access to information on subsidy spending. The Senate version, reportedly the more popular of the two, would allow access to aggregate data only and give the Agriculture Department the right to refuse to release names of individual recipients and the size of their subsidies. For their part, congressional staffers said the EWG was overreacting and no significant changes in the law were planned.
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