'Ag Gag 2.0' Faces Its Own Legal Challenge

Apr 22, 2019

The latest version of Iowa’s ag gag law is headed to court, just like its predecessor. The ACLU of Iowa and other groups are suing the state, arguing that the law violates the free speech of journalists and animal rights advocates by making it a crime to go undercover on the farm.

Under the new law, an individual who lies in order to gain access to a farm or agricultural facility with the intention of physically or economically harming the business can be charged with trespassing.

Gov. Kim Reynolds said she will work with the Attorney General to uphold the law.

"The Ag Trespass bill is designed to protect Iowa farmers from safety threats or biosecurity risks that untrained people on their property may cause,” Reynolds said in a statement. “I am committed to protecting Iowa farmers and ensuring the safety and security of their livestock."

ACLU of Iowa legal director Rita Bettis Austen lays out the legal case against Iowa's new ag gag law.
Credit Grant Gerlock / IPR

The ACLU of Iowa argues in its complaint that the new law makes it illegal to record undercover videos showing unsafe working conditions or animal cruelty.

“There are already laws that criminalize fraud, trespass (or) biosecurity issues,” said ACLU of Iowa legal director, Rita Bettis Austen. “Ag Gag 2.0 chills the protected speech of anyone — including workers, advocates and journalists — who would use these undercover investigative methods in order to gain access to these agricultural production facilities in order to document and expose abuses within them.”

Other plaintiffs in the lawsuit include Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, PETA and Bailing Out Benji, a nonprofit that campaigns to end puppy mills.

“Ag Gag 2.0” was passed after the 2012 version was found unconstitutional by a federal court in January. That decision is still under appeal by the state. Judges have also thrown out ag gag laws in Utah and Idaho.

This story has been updated to reflect the latest comments from Gov. Reynolds.