BOISE — A bill that would make it a crime to interfere with agricultural production in Idaho was introduced in the Idaho Legislature Feb. 6.
The so-called Ag Protection Act would make it a crime to knowingly interfere with any facility or land that is used for agricultural production.
The legislation was drafted by the Idaho Dairymen’s Association in the aftermath of well-publicized videos showing alleged animal abuse that were taken in animal production facilities around the country and in Idaho by environmentalists.
“These things do happen in some other states and it’s starting to happen in Idaho, and we want to get some control over it,” said Sen. Jim Patrick, R-Twin Falls, who introduced the bill on behalf of the IDA.
IDA Executive Director Bob Naerebout said the bill pertains to people who, through lies and deception, gain employment in an agricultural operation and then do economic harm and damage to that operation.
Naerebout said the bill is designed to protect all of agriculture, not just the dairy industry.
“Our concern here is making sure we are protecting all of agriculture to the best extent the law will allow us to,” he said.
Food Producers of Idaho, which represents most of the state’s largest farm-related groups, voted unanimously to support the bill.
The legislation makes it a crime for someone to “obtain employment with an agricultural production facility by force, threat or misrepresentation with the intent to cause economic harm or other injury to the facility’s operations, livestock, crops, owners … business interests or customers.”
It would also be a crime to enter an ag facility without the owner’s consent and make an audio or video recording of the production facility’s operations.
Anyone found guilty of violating the law could be charged with a misdemeanor and sentenced to up to one year in prison and fined up to $5,000.
Those charged with this crime would be required to pay restitution to the victim.
The IDA received an e-mail from the Humane Society of the United States letting them know the group would wage a major campaign against the legislation.
Naerebout said the IDA board started discussing the issue last year and recognized the bill would draw a lot of negative publicity.
“We’ve been warned we are a target (but) we determined it is legislation that we have to have,” he said. “It is time we stand up and say, ‘We cannot tolerate this any more in our operations.’”
Boise attorney Dan Steenson, who represents the IDA, said the legislation is necessary because the ag sector can’t afford the sophisticated and expensive defense mechanisms that other industries such as the defense and tech industries have.
“We are vulnerable in a way that other industries that have the capability to defend themselves from this type of behavior are not,” he said. “Infiltrating, undermining and threatening hard-working Idahoans is the wrong way to approach this issue.”