Cutler Legislation to Establish Agricultural Biosecurity Areas Passes House

A measure authored by Rep. Bryan Cutler (R-Peach Bottom) that would define agriculture biosecurity areas and define criminal penalties for trespassing into such zones passed the House with unanimous support today. 

“This legislation is about protecting our farmers, their livestock, and our food supply,” said Cutler.  “We have seen the devastating effects of fast-spreading diseases among farm animals, such as the avian flu outbreaks of the last decade, and we must work to prevent future occurrences.  People can inadvertently spread such illnesses by not following simple preventive measures so they must heed posted warnings.”

House Bill 511 specifically addresses ecoterrorism, which is trespassing into agriculture biosecurity areas with intent to release a dangerous transmissible disease or hazardous substance.  It also stipulates that a person commits a third-degree misdemeanor if he or she enters an agriculture biosecurity area without authorization.  Entering such an area without first performing biosecurity measures would be classified as a summary offense.  If either action results in damage to or death of an animal or plant within an agricultural biosecurity area, then the penalty is a misdemeanor of the first degree.

The legislation does offer a defense to prosecution if a person or law enforcement officer enters an agricultural biosecurity area under exigent circumstances and fails to perform the posted biosecurity measures.  Such circumstances include entering in response to a serious threat to human or animal health, such as a fire, or if law enforcement is in pursuit of a suspected criminal.

Cutler appreciated support for House Bill 511 from the Farm Bureau, PennAg Industries, the Ag Coalition and the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, as well as assistance from Rep. Jerry Stern (R-Blair).  The legislation will now go to the Senate for its consideration.

Rep. Bryan Cutler

100th District

Pennsylvania House of Representatives

 (717) 786-4551

(717) 783-6424

Contact:  Nicole Wamsley or (717) 783-8063

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