New law in Iowa creates new type of new type of criminal offense — agricultural production facility fraud

Stateline Midwest ~ April 2012

Under a controversial measure that took more than a year to pass and garnered national attention, Iowa has established a new type of criminal offense — agricultural production facility fraud.

HF 589 targets individuals who seek work in agricultural facilities under false pretenses. It is a response to cases in which individuals have taken jobs in order to investigate conditions at these operations and to uncover animal-welfare abuse.

Proponents of the new law say these individuals have intentionally distorted agricultural production practices and staged events inside the facilities. Opponents say HF 589 wrongly silences whistle-blowers — whether they are journalists or animal-rights activists — and targets them for prosecution. According to The Des Moines Register, the new law is likely to face a legal challenge on grounds that it violates free-speech protections, despite attempts to address these constitutional concerns. (The bill originally made it a crime to film agricultural production facilities without the owner’s consent.)

 

Measures similar in intent to Iowa’s failed to pass in Illinois (HB 5143), Indiana (SB 184),  Minnesota (HF 1369/SB 1118) and Nebraska (LB 915).

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