Commentary: Not Ag gag, it's Ag protection

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The Iowa legislature last week approved legislation which will criminalize individuals gaining access to farms under false pretenses. The bipartisan bill, which seems both warranted and reasonable, was signed into law by Governor Terry Branstad.

The primary intent of the legislation is to prohibit potential farm visitors or employees from making “a false statement or representation as part of an application or agreement to be employed at an agricultural production facility.”

Opponents of the bill refer to the legislation as the “Ag gag” bill. The only things that the law attempts to gag are false pretenses used by some to gain access to farms. It is more accurately described as the “Ag protection bill.”

Iowa Sen. Joe Seng, a bill sponsor, believes the bill does not infringe on personal rights, a key complaint by those who opposed the bill’s passage. Indeed, the bill passed the scrutiny of the state Attorney General’s office and was found not to violate 1st Amendment rights.

According to Seng, the legislation discourages animal activists from gaining access to production facilities under false pretenses but does not prohibit a legitimate farm employee from recording, and promptly reporting, incidents of animal abuse.

Several other states are now considering similar agriculture protection bills including Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New York and Utah.

Some folks, including animal activists and the American Civil Liberties Union, (ACLU), are already objecting and I expect there will be more. By opposing the bill, it seems they are decrying the fact that people must be truthful when applying for employment on an Iowa farm. Actually, it is surprising to me that there wasn’t already a law on the books which punishes those who deceive or make false statements about their intent once on the job.

Those who object to Iowa’s new legislation believe their rights are being infringed upon and vow to continue their efforts to gain access to private farms. Of course, they do not mention the rights of farm owners to receive honest and truthful statements made on employment applications.

Fact is, Iowa is at the center of the nation’s agricultural economy which in many ways is leading U.S. economic growth. Agriculture is vital to our present success and our future growth.

U.S. farmers and livestock producers continue to improve on innovation, efficiency, sustainability, and productivity that we would not have dreamed were possible 25 years ago.

It should not surprise anyone that today’s farmers and livestock producers are intent on providing safe, affordable and abundant food for our nation and an increasing portion of the world’s population. It also should not surprise anyone that they will protect their ability to continue this work without being distracted by those who would interfere.



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JC    
Heaven  |  March, 09, 2012 at 07:31 AM

It's violence, suffering and neglect that are making so many people turn vegan. Ag Gag legislation is just one of many reasons why the number of vegans has doubled in the US in less than 3 years. Here are two uplifting videos to help everyone understand why so many people are making this life affirming choice: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fKr4HZ7ukSE and http://www.veganvideo.org

L    
OR  |  March, 09, 2012 at 11:59 AM

If you are afraid your farm practices will be exposed, you should change your farm practices. I invite any of my current or possible customers to come and see my operation and treatment of my swine. I want them to know how their meat is treated. This is a gag rule for all employees plain and simple. An honest employee who shoots video of mistreatment would be fired, have charges brought against them and be forced to prove they did not lie. If they gave $10 bucks to the USHS they'd be guilty. Look at the enforcement of whistleblower laws in this country as say it is not so. Employees of farms would not be able to associate freely and have the rights to free speach curtailed. Again, if you need this law, change your practices.

Roxanne Kelly    
Boston  |  April, 18, 2012 at 03:05 PM

If you don't have anything to hide, then why not prove it? Put up your own streaming surveillance video cameras within your pig barns and prove that your animals are being treated fairly. Wouldn't that shut up the animal rights groups out there if you did this? If you are treating animals humanely, you would have nothing to lose by doing this. It isn't like you have intellectual property to protect in the way that a high-tech corporation would. It is just a barn full of animals, right? There is no IP there. Surveillance cameras are cheap, every convenience store across the country has one. I work in a hospital and there are security cameras everywhere. Banks, retail stores, you name it, they all have internal video surveillance. So set up a few of your own cameras and prove to the world that you really don't have anything to hide. I challenge you to do this.

Sherr    
Florida  |  March, 25, 2013 at 10:04 AM

What complete and utter nonsense. If these farmers have nothing to hide, then they should not be SO concerned about anyone seeing what is going on at their facility. Any reputable farmer would tell you the same. I just hope those that are trying to expose this abuse do not give up in their efforts. What a pathetic society we have become when we protect the abusers and allow them to get away with such atrocious behavior! To the unethical farmers, go ahead and keep hiding what you do.. I'm sure intelligent, compassionate people will be able to figure out what is going on behind closed doors. I think we all need to remember as well, the animal abusers of today will likely become the human murders of tomorrow. So for all of you who are fighting for this ag gag bill, you or one of your family members might be one of these abusers next victims.

Sherri    
Florida  |  March, 25, 2013 at 10:07 AM

Thank you for being a reputable farmer and open to transparency. I am a vegetarian, but all of my family continues to eat meat. How do we find a local farmer OR how or we able to know the livestock has been treated humanely?


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