Idaho Dairy Leaders Alert Producers to News Media ‘Ag-Gag’ Requests

August 26, 2014 11:49 AM
Idaho Dairy Leaders Alert Producers to News Media ‘Ag-Gag’ Requests

How they suggest dairies respond "for protection" of their industry.

Following recent heightened interest by news media to film on-farm footage as a response to Idaho’s ag-protection legislation, United Dairymen of Idaho (UDI) is advising its members on how to reply to such requests.

"We are working to confine and contain the nature of the requests, but encourage you to remain alert for unexpected visits to your farms," noted UDI board members Tom Dorsey and Tony Vanderhulst in an Aug. 13 letter that was sent to every Idaho dairy. There are 526 dairies in the state.

UDI is the umbrella group for the Idaho Dairymen’s Association (IDA) and the Idaho Dairy Products Commission (IDPC). Dorsey is chairman of IDPC; Vanderhulst is president of IDA. Both men operate dairies in Idaho.

In the letter, Dorsey and Vanderhulst recommended that dairy producers coordinate media interview requests with IDA or IDPC "for protection of your farm and the Idaho dairy industry."

Their letter offers these suggested responses if dairies are contacted by the news media for on-farm interviews and tours:

• "I’m one dairy farmer and not prepared to speak on behalf of the industry. I recommend that you contact the Idaho Dairymen’s Association."
• "Animal hygiene and farm safety are critical to my operation. We simply don’t conduct tours like the one you’re requesting."
• "This is a very busy time of year, as they all are, and we are focused on the safety of our operation. A tour would be a distraction to our business."
• "We don’t have the capacity right now to offer a tour or on-farm visit."

"Please be sure to remain calm, polite and professional when urged to reconsider," Dorsey and Vanderhulst added. "Never get defensive. Always repeat your response."

IDA executive director Bob Naerebout expressed surprise that the Associated Press had run a story this week on the Aug. 13 letter. "There’s really not much here to make a story out of, but the AP is trying hard," Naerebout said.

In February, Idaho Governor Chuck Otter signed into law the "Dairy Security Act." Considered the toughest "ag gag" law in the nation, it’s designed to prevent animal activist groups from surreptitiously gaining access and filming farm operations.

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