UPDATE: After three and one-half hours of public hearing Thursday, Senate Bill 1337 was sent to the floor of the Idaho House of Representatives by the Agriculture Affairs Committee with a “do pass” recommendation.
The quick-moving “Agriculture Production Interference” act goes before the Idaho House Agriculture Affairs Committee today, which could be the bill’s last stop before getting the second affirmative floor vote it needs before landing on Republican Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter’s desk.
The bill cleared the Idaho Senate only last Friday, and it’s moving fast enough to indicate there’s some legislative muscle behind it. In this case, it’s the powerful Idaho Dairymen’s Association and other Gem State agricultural organizations.
Those Idaho agricultural groups are taking on animal-rights groups, including the Los Angeles-based Mercy for Animals. In 2012, Mercy first released video of animal cruelty at Idaho’s Bettencourt Dairies. In an attempt to slow the bill, Mercy earlier this week released video it did not make public two years ago showing dairy employees physically and sexually abusing cows.
However, that might not slow the legislative train in Boise.
State Rep. Gayle L. Batt (R-Wilder), co-owner of G&T Farms, and Boise attorney Dan Steenson will present Senate Bill 1337 to the House Agriculture Affairs Committee today at 1:30 p.m. State Rep. Ken Andrus (R-Lava Hot Springs), a southeast Idaho rancher, chairs the 14-member committee, which includes Batt.
Last week, S. 1337 was introduced on Monday, approved by the Senate Ag committee on Tuesday, and passed by the full Senate on a 23-10 vote on Friday.
Animal right groups oppose the bill because they say it will prevent them from making undercover videos of animal cruelty occurring on Idaho farms and ranches. Anyone found guilty of trespassing in order to document animal cruelty could face jail time of up to one year and/or a fine of up to $5,000.
Six states have adopted “ag-gag” laws since 1990-91, and half the laws took effect only in the past two years. The fast-tracking occurring in Idaho is very similar to the way lawmakers in Utah and Iowa passed similar bills in those states once major state agricultural organizations got behind them.
Idaho’s $2.5-billion dairy industry has attracted nearly $1 billion in new investment in the past two years, representing about 5,000 jobs, including those at the largest yogurt plant opened recently in Twin Falls.© Food Safety News