A legislative committee on Tuesday sent a bill to the floor of the Idaho Senate for a vote over whether to jail and fine anyone found guilty of a new crime of interference with agricultural production. After some bill shuffling, the Senate Agricultural Affairs Committee sent Senate Bill 1337, just introduced Monday, straight to the floor, but not the nearly identical Senate Bill 1298. SB 1337 excludes farmer’s markets and farm trucking from the protections it provides to other activities as “agricultural production.” Except for those exclusions, however, the fast-moving SB 1337 appears to be a mirror image of the earlier agricultural security measure introduced in Boise, SB 1298. Pushing the “agricultural security measure” are the powerful Idaho Dairymen’s Association and other Gem State farm interests. Included as protected “agricultural production” are construction and maintenance, land preparation, handling or applying pesticides and herbicides, planting, irrigating, growing, fertilizing, breeding, processing and packaging. An “agricultural facility” under the bill includes both land and buildings. National animal-rights groups oppose SB 1337 as a so-called “ag-gag” measure. Conviction for interference with agriculture as defined by the bill could result in one year in jail and fines of up to $5,000 for each infraction. Courts could also order restitution costs of double the actual damages. It would make no difference whether records or recordings were obtained by force or misrepresentation, including lying on an employment application. The bill’s prime sponsor, state Sen. Jim Patrick (R-Twin Falls), compares recent activities of animal activists to “marauding invaders.” Patrick was apparently referring to two recent Idaho incidents, one in which alleged animal cruelty was secretly videotaped at a dairy and another where mink were released. The former incident resulted in prosecution of dairy workers by local law enforcement. Perpetrators in the mink release apparently remain at large. While a half-dozen states have so-called “ag-gag” laws on the books, similar attempts in 11 states last year were knocked down by animal-welfare groups, led by the Humane Society of the United States. HSUS opposes “ag-gag” bills because they inhibit “whistleblowers,” meaning employees with knowledge of illegal activities such as animal abuse. However, many in the Idaho farm sector say the activist groups target brands and not animal abuse, and that it puts the state’s agricultural production and processing at risk. The Idaho Dairymen’s Association is seeking more protection than mere trespass statutes for the state’s rapidly growing agricultural production facilities. South Idaho alone has seen $800 million in recent agricultural investments, representing 5,000 new jobs. An attorney for the IDA said it’s an “appropriate right” for property owners to be able to prohibit recordings on private property. The Idaho Conservation League opposed the measure as too broad, saying it could prohibit filming on public land that was leased for grazing.