Des Moines, IA—Today, in the midst of a global pandemic and nationwide protests against police violence, the Iowa Senate has passed a new “Ag-Gag” bill aiming to put in place stiffer penalties for whistleblowers at agricultural production facilities, including factory farms, in Iowa. The legislation, Senate File 2413, would stifle the first amendment rights of Iowa residents while protecting corporate agriculture and the factory farm industry.
Members of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement Action (CCI Action) and Food & Water Action (FWA) are calling on the Iowa House of Representatives to stop Ag-Gag 3.0 in the House, where it has been introduced as House File 2626.
SF 2413, which presents itself as a coronavirus-related bill, also contains a hidden provision that makes trespassing on a “food operation,” or factory farm, an aggravated misdemeanor. While the bill doesn’t explicitly mention restrictions on taking photos or undercover video, the intent is clear. The sponsor of the bill, Senator Ken Rozenboom, came under fire earlier this year when an activist group revealed evidence of animal abuses on his own hog factory farm.
Ag-Gag bills across the nation are notorious for silencing free speech on behalf of Big Ag. The factory farm industry is trying to stop whistleblowers and manufacture unconstitutional protections that no other industry has. Previous Ag-Gag laws in Iowa were passed in 2012 and 2019. The 2012 law was challenged in court and was ruled unconstitutional. The 2019 Ag-Gag law is currently being challenged in court and has been barred from being enforced.
“Legislators are not only carrying water for the factory farm industry by pushing this bill forward - they’re also making a conscious decision to waste taxpayer dollars defending another unconstitutional law,” said Adam Mason, State Policy Organizing Director at CCI Action. “When elected officials put corporate interests over our first amendment rights, we are forced to sue the very government that is supposed to represent us.”
“It’s despicable to see the General Assembly consider this harmful legislation while a pandemic ravages our communities and police violence has reached a crisis state in cities across Iowa,” said Emma Schmit, an organizer from Food & Water Action. “Our political leaders have used the public’s distraction to avoid accountability and ram through widely opposed legislation. The latest Ag-Gag bill is clearly just another attempt to threaten industry critics from speaking out.”
Iowa has over 10,000 factory farms that produce over 22 billion gallons of toxic liquid manure that is dumped untreated on farm fields across the state, contributing to over 760 impaired waterways. CCI Action and FWA believe in creating a better food & farm system -- one that works for independent farmers, workers, eaters and the environment, and that begins with a moratorium on all new or expanding factory farms.
“It’s no secret that corporate ag doesn’t want the world to see what happens in factory farms, but we have the right to know how our food is produced, particularly after COVID-19 has highlighted the numerous problems with our food system,” Emma continued. “It’s time we stop letting our legislators off the hook for selling out our interests to multi-billion dollar agribusinesses. Our Representatives need to stand with the people of Iowa and oppose this bill in the House.”