The Florida State Senate, under the wise guidance of one Republican Senator Jim Norman from Tampa, has decided to take on the pressing issue of photographs being taken of that state’s farms without the farmer’s written permission.  I guess they fixed all those pesky economy issues and have some free time on their hands.  The gist of Florida Senate Bill 1246 can be summed up in its official title:

An act relating to farms; prohibiting a person from entering onto a farm or photographing or video recording a farm without the owner’s written consent; providing a definition; providing penalties; providing an effective date.

Sounds rather odd on the surface. Why on earth would this Senator care if people are photographing the cows and citrus groves of Florida?  In fact, if this is a big concern to the people of Florida, I’d say they are already in big trouble.  A Google Image search of Florida citrus groves returns 187,000 images ranging from aerial photographs down to the trees.  Looks like the damage is already done Mr. Norman.  But if you dig a little deeper into the underlying motives of this bill the typical big business influence on politics becomes a little more clear.  It is widely speculated that this bill has nothing to do with taking pretty pictures of red barns in fields of hay or black and white cows chewing grass.  It is more about what is in those barns and how those cows are treated.  And more importantly what “agribusiness” (not Joe Farmer) doesn’t want you to see.  Films like Food, Inc. and groups like PETA have dug up dirty little secrets that large conglomerates of the agriculture business would rather not be known.

So Jim Norman is more likely protecting big business than trying to stamp out the local photography club’s trip to the country.  By prohibiting all photography of all agricultural facilities in the sate of Florida without written consent of the farmer or farmer’s representative (even photography from public property outside of the farm) this law is attempting to stop the photography and video taping of things that large corporations don’t want their consumers to know go on.  If it steps on the first amendment rights of a few photographers along the way, so be it.

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