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Wayne Farms lawsuit
Jason Morrison,
on January 8, 2018

Court: Portions of Idaho ag-gag law unconstitutional

Appeals court says it should be legal to photograph and film at agricultural operations, but it’s unlawful to try to gain employment under false pretenses

A federal appeals court has deemed portions of Idaho’s ag-gag law unconstitutional, but portions of the law were upheld.

The law, approved in 2014, makes it unlawful for people to film or photograph agricultural operations, or to enter the property of such operations, try to obtain employment or gain records of agricultural businesses, all under false pretenses and with the intent to do harm to the business.

Soon after the bill was signed by Idaho’s governor, animal rights activists, civil rights groups and media organizations filed a legal challenge to the law. A federal judge ruled the ag-gag law unconstitutional in 2015, but the recent appeal ruling only upheld some of the earlier rulings.

The appeals court, according to the Capital Press, determined that it should be unlawful for a person to falsely represent themselves in hopes of gaining employment or records, but other provisions of the law were invalidated.

The court ruled that entering an agricultural operation under false pretenses is an offense already covered in the state’s trespassing laws.

It also ruled that forbidding filming and still photography at agricultural businesses is unconstitutional.

A similar ag-gag law in Utah was deemed unconstitutional by a federal judge in July 2017.

Other ag-gag laws have been enacted in Kansas, North Dakota, Montana, Iowa, Missouri and North Carolina. North Carolina’s law is currently being challenged.

Such laws have been identified as a major issue for the greater agriculture industry, and has been a topic of discussion at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 2018 Annual Convention & IDEAg Trade Show, which is being held January 5-10 in Nashville, Tennessee. Tiffany Dowell Lashmet, assistant professor and Extension specialist in agricultural law with Texas A&M Agrilife Extension, and Paul Goeringer, Extension legal specialist at the University of Maryland, gave a presentation at the convention that covered ag-gag laws and other legal issues.

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