In January, Iowa became the latest state to have its ag-gag law overturned by the courts, a victory for free speech and animal-rights advocates. But the victory was short-lived. This month the state’s legislators revived ag-gag with a new law that targets undercover investigations into livestock farms — and it comes as ag-gag supporters across the country are looking to craft laws that will survive constitutional challenges.(No paywall)
The U.S. District Court in Wyoming ruled Monday that the state’s ag-gag laws are unconstitutional. The ruling comes after several years of litigation between the state and plaintiffs who argued the laws were written solely to deter monitoring of the effects of agriculture on the state’s water, land, and air.
The Idaho state Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved a bill that would allow prison inmates to work in all parts of agriculture, an expansion of the 2014 law that authorized prison labor in businesses that produce perishable foods.
In their rush to protect farmers from adverse publicity, Idaho legislators enacted an unconstitutional, “staggeringly overbroad” muzzle of free speech and investigative reporting, ruled U.S. appeals court judges in Seattle.
An Idaho state lawmaker says she plans to sponsor a bill in the 2018 legislative session that would expand a program allowing agricultural businesses to use state inmate labor if they can't hire enough workers. Six businesses — two fruit companies and four potato-related companies — use the program now with a fluctuating number of inmates, varying from 150 to 261, at work, says Capital Press.
Experts worry that as the gray wolf population just outside of Yellowstone National Park continues to grow, looser hunting restrictions in surrounding states could change pack behavior and hurt one of the most comprehensive research studies on the species anywhere in the world.
The world's largest seed company, Monsanto, says it will research restoration of habitat for sage grouse on 320 acres of its corporate ranch in Idaho, reports Capital Press. The work would mitigate the impact of a Caldwell Canyon phosphate mine that Monsanto intends to open.
President-elect Donald Trump is considering Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter for secretary of agriculture, despite his record — or maybe because of it — of opposing animal rights activists, says Politico. In Idaho, Otter signed the country’s toughest “ag gag” law, which carries up to a year in jail and a maximum fine $5,000 if a person is caught using a fake ID to access a farm and then film the activities there.
The honorary chairman of the Trump campaign in Idaho, third-term Gov. Butch Otter, was mentioned repeatedly as a possible nominee for Interior secretary. Now his spokesman says Otter is in the mix for Agriculture secretary, and Politico cited unnamed sources in saying, "Otter has been to Trump Tower to talk with the transition team about the agriculture secretary position."
Water levels in the aquifer underlying eastern Idaho are plummeting, so state officials have proposed creation of the East Snake Plain Aquifer groundwater management area, says The Associated Press. The result would be a plan that parcels out water to farmers and other users in predictable amounts rather than abrupt cutbacks when the holders of senior rights to the water claim their share.
Wisconsin is "America's Dairyland" — it says so on the state license plates, although California became the largest milk-producing state years ago. And now, Idaho and New York State are vying for third place, says Ag Day TV.
Federal officials are crafting an agreement to divide the steelhead and salmon catch in the Columbia River watershed between tribal, sport and commercial fishermen, says The Seattle Times. The plan would cover fishing rights in Oregon, Idaho, and Washington State, probably for the next 10 years if the length of previous agreements is any indicator.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled against the Idaho Wool Growers Association and others in a case that could have implications for grazing rules across the west.
Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden filed a notice of appeal with the U.S. appellate court in San Francisco to overturn a federal district court ruling that the state's "ag gag" law is unconstitutional. Idaho is among half a dozen states with laws intended to prevent activists from using identity fraud to get hired on farms or to make undercover videos, and it is first state to lose in court, said Food Safety News.
Topsoil and subsoil moisture levels continue to decline in the Pacific Northwest, where streamflows have shriveled to record or near-record lows, says the weekly Drought Monitor.
Idaho accounted for 52 percent of the $102.5 million worth of trout sales in 2014, up from 42 percent in the preceding year, said the USDA's annual Trout Production report.
Led by sugar growers and processors, farm groups in Idaho are considering whether to push for a state law against labeling food made with genetically modified organisms, says Capital Press.
Fast-food giant McDonald's says "it doesn't plan to buy...the Innate potato," genetically engineered by JR Simplot to produce smaller amounts of acrylamide, a suspected carcinogen, when fried, says the Idaho Statesman.
Some 55.3 million acres of U.S. farmland are irrigated, says the Farm and Ranch Irrigation Survey, drawn from USDA's 2012 Census of Agriculture.