A big crowd has assembled in the Lincoln Auditorium this afternoon for the hearing on SB 1337, the Senate-passed bill to make it a crime to surreptitiously videotape or photograph an agricultural operation. Rep. Gayle Batt, R-Wilder, said the bill “protects our farm families and agricultural operations from extremists who use tactics of threat, force, misrepresentation and trespass to gain access to facilities and gain information.”
The bill was proposed after an animal rights group, Mercy for Animals, made covert video of severe abuse of cows at a southern Idaho dairy that led to criminal charges against the employees involved. It creates a new crime of “interference with agricultural production,” with a penalty of up to one year in jail and up to $5,000 in fines. Violators also would have to pay double damages in restitution. The new crime would cover recording anything at an ag production operation without permission; intentionally damaging an ag operation, including crops, animals or equipment; misrepresenting oneself in seeking employment at an ag operation; and obtaining records of an ag operation by “force, threat, misrepresentation or trespass.” The bill passed the Senate last week on a 23-10 vote.
Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.
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