Suit: Kan. "Ag-Gag" law violates free speech

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas law banning secret filming at slaughterhouses and other livestock facilities unconstitutionally criminalizes free speech on matters of considerable public concern, a coalition of animal rights and consumer protection groups argued in a lawsuit filed Tuesday.

At issue in the lawsuit is the state's "Ag-Gag" law, which was enacted in 1990. The law makes it a crime for anyone to take a picture or video at animal facilities without the owner's consent or to enter them under false pretenses.

"The Kansas Ag-Gag law has silenced whistleblowers seeking to protect animals from cruelty for far too long," Animal Legal Defense Fund Executive Director Stephen Wells said in a news release. "This unconstitutional law exists solely to protect the financial interests of industries that abuse animals, and it will not hold up in court."

The litigation, filed in U.S. District Court in Kansas, was brought by the Animal Legal Defense Fund - the same group that filed against Idaho's similar law - the Center for Food Safety, Shy 38 Inc., and Hope Sanctuary.

Similar laws in Idaho and Utah were struck down within the past two years as unconstitutional violations of the First Amendment, and litigation is pending in several other states.

600 chickens die in fire at Conn. farm

FAIRFIELD, Conn. (AP) — Authorities say about 600 chickens have died in a fire at a Connecticut farm.

Firefighters Tuesday also rescued a man who was sleeping in a house about 25 feet from the burning storage barn and chicken coop.

Fairfield Assistant Chief Roger Caisse said the blaze at Little River Farm was reported just before 5 a.m.

Crews arrived at the scene to find heavy smoke and fire coming from the 5,500-square foot structure that also contained stored fuels and propane tanks.

Caisse said the homeowner told firefighters there were 700 chickens in the coop, but as many as 100 survived.

No people were seriously hurt. The cause remains under investigation.

N.D. Coyote Catalog program reactivated 

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A North Dakota program that connects coyote hunters and trappers with landowners who are having problems with the critters has been activated.

It's the seventh year for the Coyote Catalog set up by the state departments that oversee agriculture and wildlife. Last year, about 30 landowners and more than 500 hunters and trappers used the program.

Landowners can sign up on the Agriculture Department website , and hunters and trappers on the Game and Fish Department site.

The program will remain active through March.

50,000 or more hens died in egg farm fire

GRANT PARK, Ill. (AP) — A company spokesman says 50,000 or more hens died in a fire that destroyed two barns of an egg farm in rural northeastern Illinois.

Mussman's Back Acres Inc. spokesman Brian Burch says 275,000 to 300,000 hens survived the Tuesday fire near the Kankakee County village of Grant Park. The farm has a capacity of 350,000 hens.

Burch said the fire destroyed two barns and caused little or no damage to the three remaining barns.

Burch said the company doesn't know what caused the fire.

The farm about 40 miles south of Chicago near the Illinois-Indiana state line is owned by Martin, Michigan-based Konos Inc.

Equine, poultry gains lead Ky. ag in 2018

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Boosted by continued gains in its equine and poultry industries, Kentucky's farm cash receipts stayed relatively stable this year as higher yields for most crops helped offset lower prices hitting some sectors, agricultural economists said Nov. 29.

The projected cash receipts remained well below the record statewide high of $6.5 billion in 2014, the University of Kentucky ag economists said.

But the diversity of Kentucky's farm sector, plus strong yields, have helped it weather the volatility better than in some other parts of the country, they said.

"What has held up Kentucky farm income over the past several years ... is that we've done very well on the yield side," said UK ag economist Will Snell.

They don't foresee a rebound in Kentucky's ag cash receipts next year due in part to projected losses for soybeans, tobacco and cattle.

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