The Gross National Debt

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Before you complain about farmers, make sure your state doesn't make it illegal

In ag communities, we like to tell people, "Before you talk bad about farmers, make sure your mouth ain't full."

To this I add, make sure you ain't wearing clothes, ain't using any product that contains wood, cellulose, ethanol or comes from a source that relies on any of this to get what you need. In short, unless you can make your own clothes, shelter and know how to survive off whatever grows wild, then don't speak ill of farmers around me.

I might cease being polite.

Anyway, a judge in the tater state, Idaho, has tossed out a state law that prohibited private undercover investigations of agriculture operations.

The judge cited First Amendment concerns. Here's the court's decision.

Here's two relevant excerpts from the ruling part of the decision:

The State’s logic is perverse—in essence the State says that (1) powerful industries deserve more government protection than smaller industries, and (2) the more attention and criticism an industry draws, the more the government should protect that industry from negative publicity or other harms.

“[U]nder the Equal Protection Clause, not to mention the First Amendment itself, government may not grant the use of a forum to people whose views it finds acceptable, but deny use to those wishing to express less favored or more controversial views.” Mosley, 408 U.S. at 96. Although the State may not agree with the message certain groups seek to convey about Idaho’s agricultural production facilities, such as releasing secretly recorded videos of animal abuse to the Internet and calling for boycotts, it cannot deny such groups equal protection of the laws in their exercise of their right to free speech. Far from being tailored to a substantial governmental interest, § 18-7042 classifies activities protected by the First Amendment based on content. Therefore, under the Equal Protection Clause, it cannot stand. 

Tru dat. Free speech means the right to call 'em like you see 'em. If people object and get offended, they have the right to speak in opposition.


However, this ruling does not speak to some other important points from my perspective.

Pages 3 & 4 of the decision sort of point to existing laws about trespass, lying and etc., the kinds of laws that do not apply to elected officials but to the rest of us. Trespass continues to be illegal, at least for us non-government types. This law attempted to reinforce that part of the law

Straight from the decision -

The drafter of the legislation, Dan Steenson, likewise expressed a desire to shield Idaho dairymen and other farmers from undercover investigators and whisteblowers who expose the agricultural industry to “the court of public opinion”: “The most extreme conduct that we see threatening Idaho dairymen and other farmers occurs under the cover of false identities and purposes, extremist groups implement vigilante tactics to deploy self-appointed so-called investigators who masquerade as employees to infiltrate farms in the hope of discovering and recording what they believe to be animal abuse.” Mr. Steenson

The federal judge in this case pretty much said there's no problem with lying, trespass and etc. The judge puts the common citizen on equal footing with government folks in this case.


In general, I am opposed to ag gag laws. The link contains further links to each state's law. These statutes are aimed at protecting the food production industry from warranted and unwarranted criticism.

Point of order, I can't think of any ag gag law I'd support.

My state, Georgia, law reads in part, "[I]t is imperative to protect the vitality of the agricultural and aquacultural economy for the citizens of this state by providing a cause of action for producers, marketers, or sellers to recover damages for the disparagement of any perishable product or commodity."

Yer honor, I object.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

That is the First Amendment, you may remember it, It's the one guaranteed by the Second Amendment.

Two relevant points:

1. Freedom of speech shall not be abridged.

2. The right to ask government to step in and solve problems is also guaranteed. (Never mind government creates plenty of problems.)

A free society must make room for dissent. You don't have to like it. You may be offended by it. Your business may suffer for it.

You have the opportunity to respond in kind. That's the best way to handle this kind of thing. Apply daffodils.

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Hi. I welcome lively debate. Attack the argument. Go after a person in the thread, your comments will not be posted.