DES MOINES, Iowa — Iowa’s legislature has quickly put through a bipartisan bill, trying again to stop people from lying to get onto farms.
In January, federal courts struck down Iowa’s Agriculture Production Facility Fraud Law also known as the ag-gag law. The 2012 law claimed to stop people from going onto a farmers property with the intention to harm their business. But the courts decided the law was too broad and violated the first amendment’s right to free speech. The plaintiffs claimed the bill would stop whistleblowers from ending bad practices on farms.
Governor Kim Reynolds signed the new Ag Trespass Bill (S.F. 519) into law this past week. It has been labeled by opponents as another ag-gag law. However, it focuses more on the trespassing aspect of the law trying to make the language more narrow.
It says it will be illegal if a person uses deception on a matter that would reasonably result in a denial of access to an agriculture production facility not open to the public and, “Through such deception, gains access to the agricultural production facility, with the intent to cause physical or economic harm or other injury to the agricultural production facility’s operations.”
This also applies if they use deception to become employed.
A person who commits agriculture production facility trespass is guilty of a serious misdemeanor for a first offense and an aggravated misdemeanor for any more. Also, a person who conspires with another to commit trespass is also guilty of a misdemeanor.
Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig praised the legislature saying, “This bill establishes vital protections for Iowa livestock producers against special interest groups with malicious intentions.”
However, opposition to the bill in the floor debate says to protect free speech you have to protect lying too. They say farm businesses have the ability to perform background checks and add there are already laws that stop trespass.