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Iowa’s New Law Criminalizing Undercover Investigations of Farms Faces Legal Challenges

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Farmers harvest corn near Burlington, Iowa.

A month after Iowa legislators passed a second law criminalizing undercover investigations at agriculture operations, the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa has filed a lawsuit claiming the law violates free speech protections.

“Enough is enough,” Rita Bettis Austen, legal director of the ACLU of Iowa, said in a statement on Sunday. “Free speech means the government is not allowed to put the PR interests of one industry above the constitutional rights of its critics.”

The new law imposes penalties including jail time for an offense it calls “agricultural production facility trespass.” It’s the state’s rebuttal to growing challenges from animal rights groups, which have helped overturn similar laws in three other states. Seven remain—Iowa included. The state spearheaded a new wave of these protections, known as ag-gag laws, back in 2012. In January, this law was struck down by the courts, but within just three months, the state legislature resurrected it, hoping that this iteration (dubbed “Ag-Gag 2.0” by its opponents) would be harder to kill.



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