Wyoming House passes bill for farm & ranch protection

Feb 22, 2013
by WLJ

House Bill (HB)-0126, the Republican Sue Wallis’ bill on interference with agriculture, passed the Wyoming House on a 33 to 27 vote. Depending upon one’s view, HB-0126 is either an anti-whistleblower ag-gag bill or it’s a farm protection measure.

Wyoming is one of five states that now has such measures under active consideration by state lawmakers. The other four are New Hampshire, Indiana, Nebraska and Arkansas.

After it passed the House, the Wallis bill was assigned for review to the Senate Agriculture. It is co-sponsored by Sen. Ogden Driskill, R- Devil’s Tower, who is also a rancher.

The Wyoming Legislative session is scheduled to end in early March. If HB-0126 gains Senate approval, it will next require the signature of Republican Matt Mead to become law.

In her bill, Wallis makes it a crime to “knowingly or intentionally” record images or sounds of an agricultural operation with concealed devices without the consent of the owner. Six months in jail and a $750 fine are provided as penalty. But anyone reporting animal abuse to local police within 48 hours is immune from civil liability.

Last year, 10 states considered similar bills and three, Iowa, Utah and Missouri, enacted them into law. The four other states this year are not moving as quickly as Wyoming.

New Hampshire: HB 110 remains in the House Environment and Agriculture Committee where it was briefly heard on Jan. 15.

Indiana: Two bills have been introduced, SB-0373 and SB-0391, that while nearly identical were referred to separate committees. Both would make it a crime to enter agricultural or industrial property and take a picture or video recording of the property or operations without consent of the owner. The Agriculture Committee is reviewing SB-0391, and Criminal Law heard SB-0373 this week.

Nebraska: Legislative Bill-204 has picked up a couple more sponsors, but continues to wait for consideration in the Judiciary Committee.

Arkansas: The Senate Committee on Judiciary Wednesday opted to defer action on both SB-13, limiting animal cruelty investigations to official law enforcement, and SB-14, creating an interference with livestock and poultry offense. Unless and until heard by the committee, the two bills are in limbo. — WLJ