The American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa is challenging a new law, (Senate File 519) that makes it a crime, to trespass at an agriculture production facility, through deception, if the intent is to cause economic harm or their injury.
"The way that the law singles out the agricultural industry for this special type of protection from reports or negative press about it, is unconstitutional as a content and view point based restriction," said ACLU-Iowa Legal Director Rita Bettis-Austen.
The plaintiffs in the suit include: Iowa C-C-I, PETA, the Animal League Defense Fund, Bailing Out Benji, and the Center for Food Safety.
In January of this year, the courts struck down a similar law, the Iowa Agriculture Production Facility Fraud Law. The state is appealing that decision. Plaintiffs claimed the bill would stop whistleblowers.
The new law states it's 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." The law also applies in the event deception is used to become employed.
Opponents have labeled the second bill "ag-gag 2.0."'
Supporters of the law, signed in March of this year, say it's needed to protect Iowa's producers against special interest groups who wish to cause financial harm to producers.
Governor Kim Reynolds released the following statement regarding the ACLU of Iowa’s lawsuit.
“We are working with the Attorney General’s office to ensure this legislation that supports farmers is upheld. The Ag Trespass bill is designed to protect Iowa farmers from safety threats or biosecurity risks that untrained people on their property may cause,” said Gov. Reynolds. “I am committed to protecting Iowa farmers and ensuring the safety and security of their livestock.”
Representative Jarad Klein (R-Keota) was the floor manager of the bill in the Iowa House. He tells WHO Radio News the law does not stop whistleblowers. He says if an employee notices a problem at an ag production facility, it should be reported to their supervisor, and law enforcement if necessary. Klein says those who lie to gain employment and then release complaints over the internet are intending to cause harm. He says often times their intent is to raise money for their organization and/or score points with their members.