Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Idaho Dairymen Push Back Against AP Story On Denying Media Access

Posted By on Wed, Aug 27, 2014 at 9:14 AM

An Idaho dairy association performed some quick triage late Tuesday in the shadow of a report from the Associated Press that said the dairy industry group was urging Idaho farmers to deny media requests for tours and on-farm interviews.

Things began to curdle Tuesday when the AP reported it had anonymously received a copy of a letter from the United Dairymen of Idaho sent to its constituents urging caution in the shadow of the so-called Ag-Gag law, which now criminalizes anyone who secretly documents the operations of Idaho agricultural facilities.

Boise Weekly readers may remember our April 2011 report in which we uncovered secret meetings among Idaho dairymen where tests for drugs and antibiotics were ordered. We also learned that the results of the testing had been destroyed and that records of the meeting don't exist.  And when Boise Weekly asked officials at the Idaho State Department of Agriculture, where the clandestine meeting was held, if they had any interest in what the test results might be, they responded with a resounding "No." 

Additionally, when BW showed up an Idaho auction where dairy cows are regularly auctioned off for beef, we were ordered off the property and our photographer was manhandled by an employee. Simply put, if the Ag-Gag law had been in place when we reported that 40 drug violations had been traced to Idaho dairy cows sent to slaughter, we would have been jailed.

And the new letter from United Dairymen of Idaho to its members, labeled confidential, coached dairy farmers, when asked for media access to say the following: "Animal hygiene and farm safety are critical to my operation. We simply don't conduct tours like the one you're requesting."

But when the AP story hit every newspaper and television station in Idaho, United Dairymen sent out a quick response.

"It's not the intention of the United Dairymen of Idaho to deny media access to Idaho dairies," reads the response from Karianne Fallow, CEO of United Dairymen. "In fact our dairy farm families often host dairy tours for media, school students, health professionals and others. We welcome requests for dairy tours for the purpose of educating the public about our industry and, in fact, organizing on-farm tours is one of our primary goals."

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