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Idaho House Committee Recommends Passage of ‘Ag-Gag’ Bill

The Idaho House is now ready for a floor vote that will likely send Senate Bill 1337 to Republican Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter for his signature. It would make trespassing and filming agricultural operations without permission of the owner illegal.

After three-and-a-half hours of testimony on Thursday, the House Agriculture Affairs Committee on a 13-to-1 vote sent the Agriculture Protection Act containing some familiar “ag-gag” provisions to the House floor with a “do-pass” recommendation.

About 130 people signed into the hearing, which pitted state and national animal-welfare activists against a solid wall of Idaho agriculture representatives. The committee’s favorable action on the bill was never really in doubt.

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) sent in its top public policy manager, Matt Dominguez, to Boise in a last-minute attempt to prevent S. 1337 from reaching the House floor. But Dominguez, who grew up on a farm, and the HSUS Idaho director both ended up being grilled by committee members.

Dominguez was asked whether farm animal abuse investigations like the one undertaken in Idaho in 2010 are mere tactics of a larger strategy aimed at the total elimination of animal agriculture as we know it, and he was also pressed for an estimate of how much of its own money HSUS spends on animal rescue.

“The Humane Society is not out to end animal agriculture at all,” Dominguez assured the Idaho House committee. “We support farmers who treat their animals humanely,” he said.

Dominguez said he did not know what percentage of the group’s approximately $160-million annual operating budget supports animal rescue. He said the HSUS goal is to stop animal abuse, but it does help local rescue and shelter activities.

He did acknowledge that HSUS may have a board member or two who talked of eliminating animal agriculture when they were “in their twenties,” but he insisted that is not the group’s policy today.

Lisa Kauffman, the Idaho state director for HSUS, came under more direct fire for a letter she sent in January to the dairy that was the target of the 2012 undercover investigation that prompted the legislative action.

Hansen, ID-based Bettencourt Dairies took the letter as a threat because Kauffman wrote that the company’s reputation would be hurt if it did not persuade the state’s dairy industry to drop the bill. Kauffman said she did not mean it that way, but merely thought since Bettencourt acted responsibility after the animal abuse was disclosed, it might see her point.

In addition to the Idaho Dairymen’s Association, which has put the weight of the state’s $2.5-billion dairy industry behind the bill, other ag organizations testified in favor of the bill on Thursday.

Strong statements of support also came from Idaho’s $500-million seed industry. Representatives of that industry said they are concerned about damage to genetically engineered seed research like the incidents that occurred recently in Oregon.

The many opponents of S. 1337 were almost all in agreement that Section D, which forbids taking pictures or making films or video without permission, is the most damaging part of the proposed law. Lobbyists for Idaho’s construction industry and some state conservation groups also voiced their opposition.

© Food Safety News
  • Commentator

    Simple. If the law is passed as indicated I won’t buy any Idaho beef.

    • Kitz

      Exactly. Humanely treated animals are a selling point.

  • anthony samsel

    This is a continuation of the destruction of America censoring free speech. If passed, this will put an end to EyeWitness TV News where hard hitting investigative journalism was popularized.

  • AnLover

    Ag-Gag bills are designed to allow Big-Agribusiness to abuse animals without fear of getting caught.
    Animals in factory farms are treated like machines…and you know, when that darn gadget or machine won’t do what it’s supposed to do, a good slam, hit, bang, electric prod, might get it to move! Shame on Idaho for wanting to allow unchecked animal abuse, and for wanting to pass legislation that limits First Ammendment Rights! We urge the Governor to stand tall and strong against any attempts to hide abuse or to limit constitutionally given rights. No state should affirmatively support animal abuse or make it a crime to report animal abuse — we need to move in the opposite direction, and support compassionate and humane farming and freedom of speech (First Amendment of the Constitution).

    • pattylu

      Don’t expect Otter to stand tall. He’s the ringleader and he’s slime.

  • JoAnn Scheer Ward

    Won’t be going or buying anything from Idaho.. I will spread the word

  • Cole

    Then we need to demand to know wchic facility the meats come from. That way if it is from places that abuse their animals. Then WE THE PEOPLE dont have to purchase that product. The govt is trying to make it where they make us purchase what they want. So if we know the meat is from this places we dont buy it. When we dont support the products the companies pockets will hurt.

  • Dina Strange

    Ag-Gag bills are designed to allow Big-Agribusiness to abuse animals without fear of getting caught. Animals in factory farms are treated like machines…and you know, when that darn gadget or machine won’t do what it’s supposed to do, a good slam, hit, bang, electric prod, might get it to move!

    Shame on Idaho for wanting to allow unchecked animal abuse, and for wanting to pass legislation that limits First Amendment Rights! We urge Governor Otter to stand tall and strong against any attempts to hide abuse or to limit our constitutionally given rights. No state should affirmatively support animal abuse or make it a crime to report animal abuse — we need to move in the opposite direction, and support compassionate and humane farming and freedom of speech (First Amendment of the Constitution).

  • Kobra_Kai

    Do you want people to be allowed to come into your home against your will and video tape you? To see how you were treating your children? To see if you were correctly sorting the recycling? Would you want people to come into your bakery, woodshop, law office with video cameras to record everything you do at work? You don’t? You must be against free speech.

    • Junebug

      They already do. The federal government already controls almost every aspect of life. Businesses are regulated by government demanding they buy permits for every aspect of their business. Businesses are regulated by consumer complaints. That is how it works. People stop on our property and take pictures often. I do not run out and demand they be thrown in jail for a year and fine them big bucks. Regulation through consumer complaints, that is how it works. Why should Monsanto and their GMO’s be protected. They are encroaching on family farms. Will this law apply to dog fighting too. How will these people ever be prosecuted? What about Marijuana farms? I can see many way this will be abused. The dairy money talks. You can smell it a mile away. Take a drive down I-84 from west to east.

      • Kobra_Kai

        Regulation through CONSUMER complaints. These aren’t customers complaining. They have no business or agenda on the farm except their own expose. Completely different. And this also has nothing to do with going after the actual products from farms (or from Monsanto). And this will also have nothing to do with dog fighting or marijuana farms. The cops will follow the exact same protocol for investigating those operations as before. They will investigate, and if needed, they’ll get a warrant to search the premises. You’re conflated unrelated issues.

        • Amber Compher

          This wrong. Why are people so focused on sticking their heads in the sand and forgetting our past? People out west ( yes I am a native idahoan) are so determined to be anti government that they have forgotten how to look at an issue, weigh each side equally, and come up with an honest, unbiased, personal opinion. Have we really forgotten the horrors depicted by Sinclair?! I take umbrage to those who say it is pure fiction. I fear this type of muzzling of the first amendment, as any citizen of this great country, and especially westerner, should!!!