Legislators in the state of Iowa have enacted the nation’s first agricultural protection law that awaits the signature of Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, who is expected to sign the measure.
After two years of deliberations in the Iowa Legislature, the bill was quickly passed Thursday by a vote of 40-10 by the Iowa Senate and then immediately deliberated and passed by the Iowa House by a vote of 69-28.
The new law (House File 589) has been proven to be constitutionally valid, says Dr. Joe Seng, a democrat from Davenport, IA, and the bill’s sponsor. He says originally the bill called for a penalty of 10 years in prison for violators, but that has been scaled back to one year in prison for a first offense and two years in jail for a second offense. Fines are also included.
Seng, chairman of the Iowa Senate Agriculture Committee, says the goal of the Ag Protection bill is to “send a message that we prize agriculture in Iowa and it is a commodity that shouldn’t be diminished by extremist vegans.”
It provides protection against persons who are fradulently intent to go against a farmer’s business contract for the sole purpose of entering a hog confinement facility and filming the operation to portray it in a bad light. Seng, a veterinarian, pointed out that farmers and animals are at risk when biosecurity is compromised by people entering agricultural facilities. Another argument that was made in favor of the legislation is that even police officers are not allowed to enter a citizen's home without a search warrant, and it is not right that agricultural producers can be subjected to invasive tactics either.
Critics charge that the legislation doesn’t protect animals. Seng says those critics are wrong. “This does nothing in any way to stop whistle-blowing; you can make a recording or take a cell phone picture if you see something happening at a farmer’s place that you think is bad and this does nothing whatsoever to stop that and you are not going to go to jail for it either.”
This simply provides protection for the farmer just as any hog business seeks to protect itself from fraudulent persons who can cause millions of dollars in damage from breeching biosecurity and causing a PRRS break or stealing a trade secret from a beverage company.
“It is record-breaking legislation because this is the first time that an employment agreement has a criminal offense tacked onto it,” Seng says.