Idaho's Ag-gag bill clears House, heads to Gov. Otter for approval

BOISE, Idaho (KBOI) - Idaho's controversial "Ag-gag" bill is one step closer to becoming a law.

The bill passed through the House 56-14 on its third reading Wednesday afternoon, and is now headed to the governor's office for a final swipe of the pen.

Representatives discussed the bill for just under an hour, and during that time several people spoke out both in favor and in opposition of the bill, which would make it illegal for people to record audio or video on Idaho agricultural facilities without the owner's permission.

Back in 2012, an animal rights group, Mercy For Animals, released video taken on an Idaho dairy farm of an employee abusing cows. Opponents say this "Ag-gag" bill would allow that kind of abuse to continue.

"The fact that the Idaho Legislature just passed an Ag-gag bill makes it crystal clear that the abuse found at the Bettencourt Dairies was just the tip of the iceberg," Humane Society of the United States spokesman Matthew Dominguez said. "It's pretty sad to see the lengths that the dairy industry would go to cover up this abuse."

Representatives who spoke against the bill said that passing it would make Idaho's dairy industry look guilty.

"I'm afraid that the message that goes out to the nation and to the world if we pass this legislation is 'We've got something to hide, and we don't want you to see it,'" Rep. Grant Burgoyne said.

But supporters of the bill say the agricultural industry has nothing to hide.

"When individuals say we're trying to hide something, quite frankly, that's quite wrong," Idaho Dairymen's Association Executive Director Bob Naerebout said. "The industry is very open, our producers are proud of what they do, they're proud of how they take care of the animals and our operations are pretty much open."

Backers say the focus of the bill isn't about animal abuse at all. Instead, they say it's about protecting farm families and their property rights.

"I believe that as a business owner you have a constitutional rights to protect your assets," Rep. John Vander Woude said.

"When we came across the Senate, and we came across today with a 56-14 vote, that's a very strong vote," Naerebout said.

The bill passed through the Senate earlier in February, andl will go back to the senate for a signature, then on to the governor's office for final approval.

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