Monday, April 19, 2021

Governor expected to sign bill boosting penalties for trespassing on ag property

(Radio Iowa) - A bill that criminalizes certain types of trespassing on agricultural properties has passed the Iowa legislature and now awaits Governor Kim Reynolds’ signature. Drew Mogler, the public policy director at the Iowa Pork Producers Association, says it creates new penalties for those found guilty of trespassing to set up surveillance equipment on someone else's property to secretly capture images or video.

"It does have some important protections for not just our members but really anyone who has private property and that was really the basis of this bill," Mogler says, "protecting private property rights for folks in the state of Iowa, to have some strong support from some of the business groups in the state as well."

Iowa legislators have been trying for years to enhance trespassing laws in response to undercover operations that target large-scale livestock operations. Mogler says the way the bill was written should help it withstand any possible lawsuits.

"We've had trespass laws on the books for quite some time in Iowa, it strengthens those," Mogler says. "We really believe that should pass the court's muster and shouldn't be challenged from that standpoint."

Earlier measures were written as what critics called "ag gag" laws, which were thrown out, although some of those measures are still being argued in court. Mogler says trespassers need to be held accountable and this bill will ensure it happens.

"Producers deserve to be protected from folks who are trespassing on private property or breaking into their properties and trying to do harm," Mogler says. "This bill will offer more protections for farmers for their private properties and also for other businesses across the state as well."

The measure passed the House on a 72-20 vote while the Senate approved it 35-11. The governor is expected to sign it into law.

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