Idaho dairy associations scrutinized for letter about farm tours

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The Associated Press reports that the United Dairymen of Idaho (UDI) sent 500 dairies letters to deny media requests for tours and on-farm interviews. In February, Idaho’s Governor signed into a law Senate Bill 1337 to prohibit secret recordings on farms, which passed 23-10 out of committee and 56-14 in the Senate. Governor Otter is a rancher himself.

The law likely stemmed from a 2012 Mercy for Animals video, showing abuse on a large Idaho dairy. Those caught filming agricultural operations in secret face a year in jail and $5,000 fine.

UPDATE at 2:34 p.m. Central time:

We reached Idaho Dairyman's Association (IDA) Executive Director, Bob Naerebout, by phone this afternoon to talk about the letter. IDA is one of two organizations under the UDI umbrella. He was out of the office and unable to immediately forward the letter, but called the issue a "nonstory" mischaracterized by the media. 

Naerebout speculated that many media requests were coming in to dairies based on a court case waged against the new law by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and others. He characterized the letter as a service they were providing to producers, and asked producers to contact the office only if they wanted UDI to help coordinate the interviews.

Due to biosecurity issues and business operations, Naerebout said that it is often difficult for farms to manage their daily tasks while conducting an interview.

While the AP story from KIVI said the letter urged members "to deny media requests for tours and on-farm interviews," Naerebout said that wasn't true.

"We would encourage operations to do tours. We think that's a very important aspect. But I think everyone needs to recognize that any livestock operation, any agricultural operation, is a business," Naerebout explained. "Any time media comes out to a business or someone gives a general tour, that's a distraction from the business. But we highly encourage them to showcase their dairy operation."

Update at 3:38 p.m. Central time: After receiving a copy of the letter, Dairy Herd Management can confirm that the letter does not instruct dairy farmers to prohibit media interviews or farm tours. If we are given permission to post the letter, we will post it below.

Sources: Senate bill 1337, Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter biography, and KIVI



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K Voinis    
Austin, Texas  |  August, 27, 2014 at 01:49 PM

What an irresponsible story. An entire story on what the letter is "supposed" to have said. Then at the last graph, you find out, never mind, now that someone actually read the letter, it doesn't say that at all. The story either should be deleted, or totally written to show that the initial charges were bogus.

Tom von Alten    
Boise ID  |  August, 27, 2014 at 02:26 PM

No need to get worked up, K Voinis, the Idaho Statesman published the letter for all to see. Unfortunately, the Dairymans' nuanced retreatment above is not telling the whole truth. After suggesting all requests be "coordinated" by the trade groups, which is to say refer them to us, the intention to stonewall is plain enough. There are even "suggested responses" to employ (and stay cool, and "always repeat your response"), such as "We simply don't conduct tours like the one you're requesting" and "A tour would be a distraction to our business." In the comments under the Statesman story, along with the link to this piece blaming the media, there's a link to the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board's "Farm Tour Kit," showing an alternate business and public relations model to the Idaho trade groups'. http://www.idahostatesman.com/2014/08/26/3342107/idaho-dairy-org-tells-farmers.html

john blue    
Indianapolis  |  August, 28, 2014 at 09:38 AM

The letter was published by the Idaho Statesman, see http://agtoday.us/1tZWymz


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