Florida Lawmaker/Farmer Wants to Make it Illegal to Report a Crime on Farms

Posted on January 23, 2012

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Imagine you’re a rich farmer in Florida. You probably abuse animals in some sort of industrially-accepted way, and the last thing you want is for some left-wing, Obama-voting, animal rights radical who probably aborts human babies in his spare time to come on your farm and take pictures of your factory of animal horror and suffering, right?

Now imagine you’re a rich farmer in Florida who also holds public office and is able to write new laws. Well, you might think it a good idea to make a law that makes it illegal to take pictures on a farm. Hell, you might even want to make taking pictures on a farm a first-degree felony, punishable by up to 30 years in prison. That might deter some of those commie animal-loving activists (why do they love animals so damn much, anyways? Anybody ever look into that?).

Well, in case that’s too far-fetched for you to imagine yourself doing, you don’t have to because some lawmaking farmers in Florida are doing just that. And it looks like the bill to prevent whistle-blowing on farms is getting close to the law.

Called the “Ag-Gag” bill by some animal rights activists, HB 1021 would criminalize any photography, video recording, or audio recording of farm property without the written consent of the farm owner. This includes any employees or journalists. The only exemptions would be government employees from the Department of Agriculture, Department of Consumer Services, and the Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

According to the Tampa Tribune, the bill was drafted in early 2011 by state Sen. Jim Norman, R-Tampa, who said he wrote the bill at the request of Wilton Simpson, the second-biggest egg farmer in Florida and self-described “Reagan Republican” who is running for state senate.

Norman, who said the bill was a response to the recent “assault” on the agriculture industry, also said that he believes the penalty for violating the proposed law should be a felony, which Simpson probably had no problems with.

As the bill moves forward, sponsors have increased, with many farmers-turned-lawmakers agreeing that people taking pictures of how they run their business could be detrimental to their profits (but they insist they are doing nothing wrong, of course). From the Florida Independent:

The bill’s house sponsor, Rep. Ben Albritton, R-Bartow, called the controversial provision a way of preventing “industrial espionage” during the bill’s committee stop on Wednesday. He said he wanted to stop people who are allowed to go on farms such as business and professional regulation services, police officers, government employees, engineers, land surveyors and insurers from coming in “under false pretenses” and take pictures.

He said he has worked with farmers for the “vast majority of [his] life,” and claims farmers “are making sure … there is accountability for the farms.”

Albritton also believes that how he and other farmers make food is none of the public’s business and they have no inherent right to know how their food was made because they don’t own the farm, dammit.

“Private property rights – at the end of the day that is my perspective on offering this bill, and I believe it to be correct,” Albritton said according to NorthEscambia.com.

In a press release, the Human Society had a different take on the matter:

Agribusiness interests want to criminalize undercover exposés by introducing “Ag-Gag” bills in several states to outlaw such activities as producing, possessing or distributing video or photographs taken on a farm without the owner’s approval – effectively blocking whistleblowers from exposing animal cruelty, food safety issues, poor working conditions and more.

Section 6 of SB 1184/HB 1021 would criminalize photography, videotaping and audio recording of a broad array of activities on agricultural property. Even employees and journalists who take photos or video to document misconduct on farms could face criminal prosecution if Section 6 is passed, whether it’s documenting mistreatment of animals, food safety concerns, worker safety violations, sexual harassment, financial embezzlement, or environmental crimes.

Unfortunately, the effort to criminalize whistle-blowing is not limited to Florida. Iowa passed similar legislation last year, in which employees who get jobs at farms with the intent of exposing foul practices would be punished.

Simpson the egg-farmer is sure to have been inspired by videos like these, which will soon be illegal to produce in Florida:

 

 

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Posted in: Crime, Florida, Politricks