Idaho Dairymen’s Association is calling upon industry members to reach out to legislators and their communities to explain the Interference with Agricultural Production bill introduced Thursday in the state Legislature and to garner support for the legislation.
IDFA developed the legislation in response to growing incidences of animal activists gaining access to dairy farms around the country with the intent to film alleged animal abuse, said Bob Naerebout, IDA executive director.
One such incident occurred on an Idaho dairy in 2012 when Mercy for Animals gained employment and filmed and released video of three employees abusing animals.
IDA did not have a policy on undercover videos, and Naerebout said at the time if the industry did a better job of vetting employees, legislation wasn’t needed.
With animal activists becoming more aggressive, that’s changed, he said.
“No matter how hard you try to vet people … if they’re liars and deceivers, you’re not going to catch them. They are hired by someone and go in with an agenda to find and create what looks like animal abuse,” he said.
The legislation, H1298, introduced by Rep. Jim Patrick, R-Twin Falls, addresses any person who enters the facility without the owners express consent – including those who gained employment through misrepresentation – and obtains records or makes audio or video recordings with the intent to cause economic or other injury.
Anyone found guilty would be convicted of a misdemeanor and sentenced to up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $5,000. The legislation also provides for restitution to the victim equal to twice the amount of the damages.
“The legislation is important to all of agriculture, not just dairy. Unlike industrial complexes, agricultural producers have a very difficult time protecting (their) premises,” Naerebout said.
The industry needs to be protected from those intent on doing injury or economic harm, he said.
In addition to the proposed legislation, Idaho law provides opportunity for victims to go after anyone who aided or abetted in the crime, including those who hired the violator to do harm, he said.
The legislation was developed with provisions determined to be constitutionally sound and to avoid provisions that could be legally infirm, said Dan Steenson, an attorney who represents IDA and other ag organizations.
The bill addresses wrongful conduct that interferes with an ag facility, he said.
The bill has support of House and Senate leaders and other ag organizations in Idaho. It is co-sponsored by 23 legislators, and that number continues to grow in both legislative bodies, Naerebout said.