Top Stories

Open letter to readers: Today and tomorrow

By Lynda Waddington | 11.17.11

Wednesday was a difficult day for The American Independent News Network, which is the larger entity that operates The Iowa Independent. Our chief executive and founder announced two of our sister sites would close and their content would be moved to The American Independent.

ACS lockout continues; plan emerges to repeal sugar protections

crystal_sugar_80
By Virginia Chamlee | 11.15.11

A recently introduced bill could have far-reaching impact on the U.S. sugar industry, including American Crystal Sugar, a farmer-owned cooperative that locked out 1,300 Midwest workers on Aug. 1.

Cain campaign: Farmers know more about regulations than EPA

hermancain_80x80
By Andrew Duffelmeyer | 11.15.11

The chairman for Herman Cain’s Iowa effort says the campaign “relied more on the word of farmers than Washington regulators” in deciding to run an ad containing claims the Environmental Protection Agency says are false.

Mathis wins, Democrats maintain Senate control

Liz Mathis
By Lynda Waddington | 11.08.11

The Iowa Senate will remain under the control of a slim 26-25 Democratic majority when it reconvenes in January 2012.

Press Release

PR: Nation should work to address veterans’ challenges

By Press Release Reprints | 11.11.11

BRUCE BRALEY RELEASE — As US involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan ends, it’s more important than ever that our nation works to address the challenges faced by the men and women who fought there.

PR: Honoring veterans, help in hiring

By Press Release Reprints | 11.11.11

CHUCK GRASSLEY RELEASE — A difficult job market is challenging the soldiers, sailors and airmen who have protected America’s interests by serving in the Armed Forces.

PR: In honor of America’s veterans

By Press Release Reprints | 11.11.11

TOM LATHAM RELEASE — No one has done more to secure the freedom enjoyed by every single American than our veterans and those currently serving in the armed services.

PR: Honoring and supporting our nation’s veterans

By Press Release Reprints | 11.11.11

DAVE LOEBSACK RELEASE — Veterans Day is an opportunity to reflect on the service of generations of veterans and to honor the sacrifices they and their families have made so that we may live in peace and freedom here at home.

no_ag_vid_500

Agriculture whistleblowers targeted in proposed bill

House expected to vote today on bill criminalizing undercover stings
By Lynda Waddington | 03.15.11 | 8:30 am

Members of the Iowa House are expected to vote Tuesday on a bill that would send  individual(s) engaging in undercover investigations at state agricultural sites to prison.

The measure, House File 589, which was introduced by Rep. Annette Sweeney (a north-central Iowa rancher) as House File 431, prohibits individuals or groups from “interfering with an animal facility or crop operation.” Such interference, as defined in the bill, would include audio and visual recordings and their distribution. Those found guilty of interference would be prosecuted for an aggravated misdemeanor crime on a first offense and of a class D felony on any subsequent offenses.

In addition, the bill makes it a crime (fraud) for an individual to gain access to an animal facility or crop operation under false pretenses. First offenders would face an aggravated misdemeanor charge and subsequent offenses would garner felony prosecution.

In Iowa, conviction on a class D felony would subject an individual to a maximum of five years in prison and a fine of up to $7,500. Convictions on charges of aggravated misdemeanor carry a term of up to two years in prison, and a fine of up to $6,250.

Whistleblowers, often affiliated with animal rights organizations, have often gone undercover at agricultural operations throughout the nation. Their reports, which are often in video format, have documented serious abuses and, many times, have prompted state and federal officials to further investigate the facility or plant.

For example, years before the Agriprocessors meatpacking plant in Postville hit the national radar in 2008 in connection with immigration abuses, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals placed undercover investigators in the plant. In 2004, PETA released an extremely graphic video that depicted several botched slaughters. It was that video  and the subsequent public outcry that prompted an investigation by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The agency’s findings noted repeated violations of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act — many completed in front of federal inspectors.

Suspecting that plant officials had not changed their kosher slaughter techniques to comply with federal law, PETA twice more sent undercover investigators into the plant. Although the USDA agreed that the kosher cuts being made at Agriprocessors were not ideal, the agency also determined that the practices observed were “not egregious.” Ultimately, however, plant officials agreed to stop use of controversial secondary cuts until further approval of the practice was found.

The Associated Press relied on an undercover video of a Bayard hog farm in 2008 in presenting a report. The subsequent news item sparked international outrage, and even raised the eyebrows of some longtime Iowans.

More recently, in April 2010, a video from Rose Acre Farms and Rembrandt Enterprises, two Iowa egg producers, was released as the end result of an undercover investigation by the Humane Society of the United States. Only weeks later two different Iowa egg producers voluntarily recalled millions of eggs linked to Salmonella outbreaks.

The group argues that the “egregious animal cruelty” that they uncovered is what has prompted Iowa’s agribusiness industry to push for this specific bill.

“[Those interests want] to shield their inhumane practices from public scrutiny and stifle open dialogue on animal welfare issues,” warns an action alert by HSUS. “Existing law already prohibits interference with and disruption of animal facility operations. This bill targets legal investigative reporting.”

America’s producers argue that the undercover reports released by such organizations provide the public a look at non-typical happenings within the agricultural sector — a view that has been used to hurt all producers. Others believe that many urban residents are so far removed from the farm and rural life that much of what is done in an effort to protect livestock is considered inhumane.

And still others are more than happy to arrest and prosecute those who wish to investigate their businesses.

“This legislation comes as a breath of fresh air to me,” wrote Jim S. on the American Veterinary Medical Association’s website when asked to offer his opinion of the proposed bill. “Too long have the HSUS and PETA activists controlled animal agriculture legislation. Their extremist views and ‘abuse’ videos have hurt agriculture time and time again, and it is time to put a stop to their lies. HSUS has already started to ratchet up their opposition to this bill as it exposes their vulnerability through the illegally obtained videos, editing, and choreographed scenes of alleged animal abuse. I would ask the AVMA to support this bill because not only does the legislation represent your clients, it also protects animals from bio-terrorism and abuse from staged videos by activists.”

Instead of publicly releasing videos, which harms the entire industry, people who see abuse should be encouraged to see resolution through existing regulatory and legal channels, say advocates of the bill.

To date, the bill has been flooded with lobbyist approval from the entire gamut of the agricultural industry — from dairy producers to greenhouse growers to Monsanto Co. Those who have taken a stand against the bill (and there aren’t very many) are organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union who perceive potential 1st Amendment rights violations.

Other states in addition to Iowa are also considering similar legislation.

If the bill is given approval by the Iowa House, it will move to the Senate for another round of debate. If it is ultimately signed into law, however, it would be the first piece of legislation of its kind in the nation.

Follow Lynda Waddington on Twitter


Comments

  • Anonymous

    “Their extremist views and ‘abuse’ videos have hurt agriculture time and time again…”

    Well maybe you should do it right the first time genius!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Terry-Ward/100001935978203 Terry Ward

    Criminals HATE cameras.

    Ask anyone in law enforcement.

  • Anonymous

    The lobbyists and agribusiness and the legislators who vote for this bill
    are likely the same people who would go home at the end of their day
    to beat their children and kick their dog.

  • Anonymous

    The lobbyists, agribusiness promoters, and the legislators who vote for this bill
    are the same people who, at the end of their day, go home to beat their children and
    kick their dog.

  • Anonymous

    The lobbyists, agribusiness promoters and the legislators who vote for this bill are the same people who, at the end of their day, go home to beat their children and kick their dog.

  • Anonymous

    Well I guess the food industry and its lackeys aren’t big on big on transparency. This is just another chapter in their saga to avoid oversight. The have effectively eliminated governmental inspections by reducing the budgets for agencies and agents who enforce regulations and now they want to stop press and public from exposing their activities. What do they have to hide but horrible working conditions that brutalize both workers and animals and unsafe practices that threaten public health? More evidence that this is the land of the free – for rich people and corporations.

  • Anonymous

    Just another case of government protecting the profits of business (donors) at the expense of the citizen taxpayer. The irony is thick here with respect to Monsanto. They don’t want citizens spying on them but still want to maintain the “right” to spy on and “inspect” the crops of farmers who save a portion of their seed for the next years planting to determine if any of that seed contains “RoundUp ready” DNA. Monsanto owns owns the exclusive rights to this genetically modified organism ans lo and behold, also manufactures RoundUp Herbicide. Anyway, two problems arise from this situation. One is a farmer who plants round up ready crops can’t save seed for the next season, forcing them to buy new seed every year at whatever price Monsanto puts on it. Talk about ensuring a constant revenue stream! The other is when a farmer doesn’t use round up ready and practices seed saving has his crops contaminated by his neighbor who does use the genetically modified seed. If the patented dna is found in a farmers crop who doesn’t buy the round up ready product, Monsanto can and does sue that farmer for lost royalties. Fortuately, it looks like Monsanto might be backing off this stance as the expiration of their patent expires in 2014. I’m sure they’ll find another way to screw our farmers.

  • Anonymous

    These bills need to be protested! Whistle blowers need to be protected because we cannot trust government inspectors to keep the agribusiness in check.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_GMU2LJ35DOHML7HB76RBE2RGD4 a

    Cases of abuse are widespread and well-documented and the abuse is not an isolated incident. Any time someone turns on the video camera, they can find abuse because it is standard industry practice–and for a very good reason. Abusing animals adds a large percentage to the profits of factory farmers. The more animals are crammed into smaller spaces, moved quicker through assembly lines, and treated as machines instead of the creatures they are, the more money they make. That’s why tail-docking, castration, debeaking and overcrowding are standard practices. It’s cheaper that way.

    Last year several spokespersons for the egg industry admitted that grinding live chicks up in a wood-chipper was standard practice. That anyone can advocate this kind of cruelty with a straight face tells us about the depths of their inhumanity. No wonder they want to cover it up.

  • Anonymous

    While both the Senate and House versions of this bill target “activists,” both bills go much further by making it an aggravated misdemeanor to lie, even a little, on a resume regardless of your intent, to trespass on an animal facility or crop operation, again regardless of damage or intent, and to take photos of, for example, a farm while “at,” not on, one of the locations EVEN IF you are on public property.
    Even if it can be argued that the intent of the Iowa General Assembly is noble, the bill is overkill and needs to have more thought put into it.

  • http://twitter.com/foodinteg FIC

    Thanks Lynda for writing on this important issue! If you have time, please check out my piece on the proposed legislation from a whistleblower perspective, on the Government Accountability Project (national whistleblower advocacy group)’s Food Integrity Campaign blog: http://foodwhistleblower.org/blog/164-proposed-anti-whistleblower-laws-threaten-food-integrity

  • http://twitter.com/foodinteg FIC

    Thanks Lynda for writing on this important issue! If you have time, please check out my piece on the proposed legislation from a whistleblower perspective, on the Government Accountability Project (national whistleblower advocacy group)’s Food Integrity Campaign blog: http://foodwhistleblower.org/blog/164-proposed-anti-whistleblower-laws-threaten-food-integrity

  • Citizen Kane

    “Investigations at state agricultural sites to prison” . . .Does anyone else see where we are at as a country here? As I recall the state of Iowa has no agricultural sites? Are we so far down the road in corporate influence that even the reporting infers the corporate America and State linkage?

  • Anonymous

    If animals are treated humanely; what do these people have to hide? Shame on Iowa for this proposal. I live in northwest Iowa & can remember as a child seeing pigs free roaming, living in their little shelter/huts. Today, confinement is the norm – all in the name of $$$$. It makes me sick to think how these animals live. I hope undercover videos still are done – maybe these people that work in this industry would think twice before they abuse an animal.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_MAPMGMFGQA5JDIYQHOH6VCXEDU WilliamM

    I am shocked Iowa is trying to pass a bill to make it illegal to film what goes on in factory farms [“Agriculture Whistleblowers Targeted in Proposed Bill”, March 15]. Why does the government not want the public to know where their food comes from? This is very scary. Big agribusiness always get their way because many hold positions in the government. Those who suffer are the small family farmer and consumers.

    It seems like the government has been out of control on taking away citizens’ rights the past decade. I look around at what’s happening in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Iowa and wonder if they’ll be a democracy much longer in the U.S.

  • Anonymous

    Iowa should be ashamed of themselves. It is our duty to protect animals from abuse, regardless to whether they are used for consumption or not. There is never any reason to abuse these poor animals. It is time we show these creatures some respect, as another living creature. If the farmers were behaving as they should, they would have nothing to hide. Our country has long prided itself for having a degree of transparency and the agricultural industry should be no different. I wonder how much these senators are getting paid to pass this bill?

  • Anonymous

    Despots around the world rejoice – the USA government is following your lead and making it illegal for citizens to publish the truth…next, the politicians will make it a prison offense for newspapers to publish stories about CEO’s embezzling from their companies, politicians involved in sex scandals, and lobbyists buying votes.

  • Anonymous

    Despots around the world rejoice – the USA government is following your lead and making it illegal for citizens to publish the truth…next, the politicians will make it a prison offense for newspapers to publish stories about CEO’s embezzling from their companies, politicians involved in sex scandals, and lobbyists buying votes.

Switch to our mobile site