Large farming operations should be put in the spotlight, not hidden.

Out of sight, out of mind- right? Well that's what Big Ag companies in Florida are hoping for. SB 1246 introduced on the 8th by Sen. Jim Norman, R-Tampa would make it a first-degree felony to photograph a farm without consent. This is the sort of legislation that will turn down the exposure on factory farms, the likes of which have been infiltrated by animal activists armed with hidden cameras, ready to show the world the ugly truth behind the scenes.

The treatment of animals and use of chemicals on these farms is certainly nothing to be proud of and it is the intent of the industry to keep these practices hidden from the public. In 2008 Florida had 47,500 commercial farms, last year there were about 130 certified organic producers, including both crop and livestock. That shockingly low number of organic farms means that Big Ag gets its way when it comes to controlling who monitors them. The FDA and the USDA already back Big Ag and now the American people will be shut out from documenting the truth.

~Health Freedoms

Along with mountains of oranges, tomatoes, and sugar, Florida's branch of Big Ag Inc. is a reliable producer of bad news. Whether it's the fight over proto-slavery conditions for its tomato workers, the push to perfect genetically modified oranges, or the outrage of the crony capitalist “solutions” to the environmental degradations of sugar plantations, it seems like there's always something rotten in the state of Florida. Oh, and did I mention that Florida also has a shockingly low number of organic farms?

So I am not surprised to learn that a creative (not to mention unconstitutional and idiotic) solution to the grave problems with factory farms should arise in the Sunshine state (via the Florida Tribune and Matt Yglesias):

SB 1246 by Sen. Jim Norman, R-Tampa, would make it a first-degree felony to photograph a farm without first obtaining written permission from the owner. A farm is defined as any land “cultivated for the purpose of agricultural production, the raising and breeding of domestic animals or the storage of a commodity.”

Media law experts say the ban would violate freedoms protected in the U. S. Constitution. But Wilton Simpson, a farmer who lives in Norman's district, said the bill is needed to protect the property rights of farmers and the “intellectual property” involving farm operations.

The “bill” was apparently inspired by the successful undercover videos produced by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and the Humane Society. But mostly it was inspired by rank stupidity. It doesn't take a close reading of the Constitution to know you can't make photographing private property from a distance illegal.

Really, this is about the tendency in the food industry and, sadly, even in our government to believe that transparency and knowledge are the enemy of a functioning food system. People must not know how animals are slaughtered and processed. People must not know the nature and safety of all the chemicals involved in agricultural and food production and processing. People must not know if food is genetically modified. This belief now appears to undergird the very logic of the American industrial food system.

So, with that as a foundational principle, it's inevitable that in the epistemically closed system of Big Ag, a rancher, and a state senator would agree that a bill like this makes perfect sense. I'm not concerned that this bill is anything but DOA. What we need to learn from this sorry episode is that Big Ag's answer to reform is denial, obfuscation, and ignorance. You know what? I'm still not inspired.

By: Tom Laskawy

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