Capital photo

Iowa’s livestock industry is hoping the second attempt at a law aimed to keep animal activist groups and others from going undercover in livestock operations is more successful.

The new law, which Gov. Kim Reynolds signed March 14, replaces the previous law that was declared unconstitutional earlier this year.

State Sen. Ken Rozenboom, R-Oskaloosa, managed the bill on the Senate floor. He said after the original law was declared unconstitutional, he felt it should be extended to businesses outside agriculture, but attorneys said the wording needed to be narrowed. The district court ruling said the previous law represented a violation of the First Amendment, most notably freedom of speech.

Rozenboom said the law is closely worded to similar legislation passed in Idaho, which withstood a court challenge.

“Using (free speech) to misrepresent oneself under false pretenses is wrong,” Rozenboom said.

The new law is also necessary, he said, due to potential lapses in biosecurity that could bring disease into an operation.

“Even non-farmers have heard of African swine fever,” he said. “We have to be cautious about who we let on hog operations.”

Drew Mogler, public policy director with the Iowa Pork Producers Association, said the new law drew bipartisan support. It passed by wide margins in both the Senate and House.

“Sen. Rozenboom and the floor manager in the House (Jarad Klein, R-Keota) did a really good job with this bill,” he said.

Mogler said he is comfortable with the new law and hopes it will help protect both livestock and people who work with livestock.

“We recognize there is going to be deceitful reporting of good animal husbandry, and that is capable of creating economic harm to those operations,” he said. “This law goes down a more narrow path that we believe does not violate anyone’s freedom of speech.”

Several groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, have filed a federal lawsuit claiming the new law violates the First Amendment.

Mogler said it will be some time before the courts decide the new law’s fate.

“We feel good about the state’s position,” he said. “This is a law with a narrow focus and is clearly not an attempt to limit free speech. This is to protect livestock producers from being harmed by people using deceit to gain access to their operation.”

Jeff DeYoung is livestock editor for Iowa Farmer Today, Missouri Farmer Today and Illinois Farmer Today.