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.