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'Ag-Gag' Bills Face Tough Row to Hoe

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Politics and Democracy page, Factory Farm and Food Safety page, Florida News page, Iowa News page, Minnesota News page, and our Farm Issues page.

Big Ag is having trouble installing its Iron Curtain. I am referring, of course, to the various "ag-gag" laws proposed in Florida, Minnesota, and Iowa that would make it illegal to produce (and, in some cases, possess) undercover videos from within factory livestock farms. The latest state legislature to pursue this dubious goal is New York's -- but the fate of ag-gaggery in other states makes success in the Empire State seem unlikely.

Florida's bill died a few weeks ago when legislators withdrew the bill from consideration as the legislative session ended. And now the Humane Society of the United States reports that the Minnesota bill -- in some ways the most egregious, not to say ridiculous -- has suffered the same fate. Perhaps this will teach state legislators that self-dealing isn't the best way to approach their jobs; several cosponsors of the bill stood to personally gain from the protection the bill offered factory farm operators.

As for Iowa, its legislative session is still going on and passage of the bill is considered a priority with Republican Gov. Terry Branstad on record as believing that such undercover videos represent "a problem that should be addressed." According to this report in Iowa's Globe Gazette, the major problem isn't finding a majority to back the bill, but rather trying to get around sticky constitutional issues, specifically the concept of "prior restraint." In America, at least, it's very difficult to stop someone from doing something they haven't done yet, especially when we're talking about First Amendment issues. Iowa legislators are rewriting furiously as we speak -- and I wouldn't be surprised if they pass something just to see if it sticks.

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