An Idaho dairy industry group said Tuesday it didn't intend to deny media access to dairies when it mailed a letter to about 500 members urging them to turn down interview and tour requests.
The letter from the United Dairymen of Idaho was sent anonymously to The Associated Press late last week.
In it, co-chairs Tom Dorsey and Tony Vanderhulst advised dairy producers that there's been an increase in requests from media groups seeking to film on-farm footage since a law passed earlier this year making it illegal to secretly film animal abuse at agriculture operations.
The men recommended that dairy producers either turn down media requests or refer members of the media to dairy industry groups.
Late Tuesday, the organization's CEO Karianne Fallow issued a prepared statement saying the group wasn't trying to stop media access.
"In hindsight we understand how our Aug. 13 letter to United Dairymen of Idaho members might make someone think otherwise, but it is not the intention of the United Dairymen of Idaho to deny media access to Idaho dairies," Fallow wrote.
Dairy farm families often host tours for media, school students, health professionals and others, and organizing on-farm tours is one of the primary roles of United Dairymen, Fallow wrote.
"Our goal is to do so in a coordinated way and provide assistance to our farmers in support of the Gem State's dairy industry," Fallow wrote.
Earlier this year Idaho lawmakers passed a law making it a criminal offense for people to secretly film animal abuse at agricultural facilities. Opponents of the law, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho, are suing the state contending that it curtails free speech rights.
But agriculture groups say the law is needed to prevent animal rights groups from unfairly targeting certain businesses and to protect private property rights.
The letter, which was labeled confidential, states that there has been heightened interest from the news media as a response to the legislation.
"We are working to confine and contain the nature of the requests, but encourage you to remain alert for unexpected visits to your farms," the men wrote in the letter.