Tri States Public Radio Staff
Ag Gag Law
Tue April 10, 2012
Shop Talk - April 10
The panelists discuss so-called "ag gag" laws, one of which was recently signed by Iowa Governor Terry Branstad.
The bill makes it a crime to access an agricultural facility under false pretenses. Illinois and Missouri lawmakers have considered similar legislation.
Critics of the bill say it is too broad because it does not define "false pretenses." Supporters say the law will protect farmers.
The Shop Talk panelists believe the law is wrong-headed because it will stifle investigations into practices that could be harmful to consumers. Panelist Bill Knight said libel laws should be enough to prevent false reporting about what happens on farms.
Panelist Rich Egger called the law a "misdirection" because it focuses attention on journalists and activists without regard to the serious health violations they are uncovering. The Food Lion case is a good example. ABC News uncovered evidence that Food Lion was selling spoiled meat, but it was successfully sued for fraud because its reporters presented false information on job applications in order to get hired by the supermarket.
Under an ag gag law, Upton Sinclair could have been imprisoned for writing The Jungle.