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.