Quietly added to recently amended legislation that would create a new state agency called the California Cattle Council is a provision that would create liability for those associated with the council who make disparaging statements about beef commodities. The amended bill will be heard in the Senate Agriculture Committee next week, on April 3.
SB 965 by Senator Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg) would prohibit anyone engaged in a program or activity of the council from making false or unwarranted claims or disparaging the quality, use, or sale of any commodity.
The chilling effect on the disclosure of information that affects the public’s health is palpable. If the bill becomes law and the council possessed information about beef commodities that threaten the public’s health, e.g. tainted meat or the spread of a bacterial disease, the disparagement provision would prohibit the council or any person involved in a program or activity of the council from informing the public about the health threat.
Over the years and over CNPA’s objections, several attempts have been made to insert Ag-Gag clauses into California law to try to shield food producers from the PR and financial fallout when information is disclosed about potential consumer exposure to contaminated food products. The California Legislature rejected each and every previous attempt.
Additionally, SB 965 would prohibit the disclosure of the names of the businesses regulated by the council unless a court order was issued allowing the disclosure.
CNPA plans to attend the Agriculture Committees hearing and oppose the measure. The bill is also opposed by many cattle businesses and trade associations that would be regulated by the measure.