A measure that seeks to bar animal rights activists from making undercover video in Idaho dairies is moving ahead in the state House.
What critics call the "ag gag" bill is a reaction to a 2012 video that showed workers abusing cows at a farm near Twin Falls. Farmers say they need protection from what they call "vigilante" tactics.
A legislative panel heard nearly three hours of public testimony on the bill.
Brent Olmstead, the head of Milk Producers of Idaho, says animal rights activists are using surreptitiously obtained video of isolated incidents to shame farmers and drive away their customers.
"They know how to take a story, they know how to spin a story and they use that story against the dairymen," Olmstead says.
The bill would make it a crime to film agricultural operations without permission – or to seek farm employment under false pretenses. That's how a member of the group Mercy for Animals was able to document workers beating, punching and kicking cows at an Idaho farm in 2012.
Scott Beckstead, the Oregon director of the Humane Society, told Idaho lawmakers they shouldn't be targeting the messenger.
"The activist who filmed that conduct performed a very valuable service for the million of consumers out there," Beckstead says.
The measure has already won approval of the Idaho Senate. It now heads to the floor of the House.