Two US states move to outlaw unauthorized photos of farming operations (UPDATED)

M. Scott Brauer - Pregnant cattle stand in a holding pen awaiting ultrasounds to determine the progress of their gestation on the Judisch Ranch outside of Ledger, Montana USA.


Sec. 9.1(a)(2) makes it a crime to “Possess or distribute a record which produces an image or sound occurring at the animal facility” which was taken without permission of the owner.

Sec. 14.1.b makes it a crime to “Possess or distribute a record which produces an image or sound occurring at the crop operation which was” taken without permission of the owner.
from Iowa House Bill HF589, passed March 17, 2011

We’ve covered states’ moves to criminalize the recording of police activity previously. Now, bills introduced in Florida and Iowa state legislatures would make photography, video, or audio recording of agricultural operations illegal without written permission of the farm’s owner. In Florida, violations would be punishable by up to 30 years in prison, according to the proposed Senate Bill 1246 (SB 1246). A similar law (HF589) passed the Iowa state House of Representatives. In a Washington Post article, agricultural industry representatives and lawmakers say the Iowa bill is intended to stop animal rights organizations from filming undercover videos that misrepresent farming operations. Wilton Simpson, a Florida farmer, says that the bill is needed to protect the intellectual property of his farming practices.

Both bills, frighteningly, don’t limit their protections to images or recordings taken while on farm property. For instance, section 3.7 of Iowa’s HF589 defines a “crop operation” as “a location where a crop is maintained, including but not limited to a crop field, orchard, nursery, greenhouse, garden, elevator, seed house, barn, or warehouse.” Under my reading of the bill (and I’m not a legal scholar), these aspects of a farm operation could not legally be photographed without permission, even if the recording or images are taken from public property. The Iowa bill would further criminalize anyone who possesses or distributes such images, reversing a 2001 Supreme Court ruling that allows news organizations to distribute recordings even if the recordings are obtained illegally. The NPPA says the Florida is similarly broad and would criminalize images or recordings taken from a public space.

If you’re in Florida or Iowa, contact your legislators.

UPDATE (22 March 2011): The Florida bill has been amended in two important ways: the crime has been changed from felony to misdemeanor, and the proposed bill no longer makes it a crime to photograph farm operations from public places, limiting the scope of the bill only to recordings made while trespassing.

(via the NPPA Advocacy Committee blog, which reports the NPPA has contacted lawmakers in Iowa regarding the bills)

36 Responses to “Two US states move to outlaw unauthorized photos of farming operations (UPDATED)”

  1. mike a

    so much for the free country thing

  2. srock

    Wouldn’t this make Google Maps illegal for distributing satellite images of farmland? Sillyness.

  3. Jared

    Its about time, the things that show on TV about farms is totally in accurate and puts Agriculture as a whole in a bad picture. Every group has a few bad apples which doesn’t make it right, but when you only show that side it gives the entire industry a bad image. If it weren’t for these people you wouldn’t have any food on your table!!!

    • Ted

      Thats the most ridiculous argument I’ve ever heard.

      1) Its not just a few bad apples, its the majority of the agriculture industry.

      2) If they aren’t brought to light, then how is anyone ever held accountable?

      3) I don’t require these people to deliver their awful product for me to have food on my table. I dont even know where to begin with that comment.

      • Dani

        Right on, Ted!

        • Carrie

          Ted, good response. If operations weren’t tainted by abuse, suffering, filth and disease, they would not be limiting liberties. Transparency implies good animal husbandry, something agribusinesses abandoned 50 years ago.

    • Anonymous

      Jared, first of all people don’t have to eat meat to live. There are people out there who ear NO meat —- they are called VEGETARIANS. Second, animals feel pain and they know when they are being abused just like humans. Maybe you should try going to a farm and see HOW THEY TREAT YOUR SO CALLED “MEAT”. How would you feel if you were locked in a cage with maybe 20 other animals, and have no room to move, or cannot reach the food and water? You probably won’t last there an hour.

      • Jared

        First off I would like to say, I grew up on a farm and am currently part of the family farming operation, and I would like to say yes you are right that we do care about what we are doing. But in respect to what I was saying, maybe you all took it the wrong way, but all the media today wants to focus on is the bad parts of agriculture. I totally agree with Anthony below this comment that livestock can be raised without abuse, and like I said every group has some bad apples, and that is all they focus on, tell me the last time you saw a story on all the good things that the American Farmer does. Please explain to me how all farmers are bad? What is the logic behind that? And to the vegetarian comment and to Ted’s, you are right that you don’t have to eat meat, but last time I checked all of your food be it MEAT, GRAINS, VEGGIES from a field, which is linked to a FARMER. So Ted if you don’t rely on these people I would like to know how you eat on a daily basis, because if WE the farmers decided not to produce a crop then you would not be eating. The AMERICAN public is so far removed from the farm that they have no idea where their food comes from. So sorry it you took my comment the wrong way, but I am pretty sure that you would all agree with me that without the FARMER you would go hunger and I don’t disagree that the bad farmers should be exposed, but I do think for every 1 bad exposed farmer there should be 2 or 3 stories on how good Farmers are, and that doesn’t happen. Please feel free to comment back!!!

        • Anthony

          Jared, good for you for replying and clearing a few things up. Most people would have just ignored the responses. Anyway, there are plenty of very good stories out there about farmers and ranchers who do the right thing. If you’re looking for people to pat the back of a CAFO owner, it’s not going to happen. Everyone here realizes how vital farmers and ranchers are to our everyday life. We don’t need to have a positive story for each negative story to make us understand how important they are…

        • Jared

          Anthony, you are correct that the CAFO owners aren’t going to get a pat on the back, but if we want to keep the our food prices low, which only cost about 10 cents of every dollar, then we need those CAFOs that can produce large amounts in a small area, and trust I don’t come from a CAFO, so we feel the squeeze that they put on, but you can’t dicount someone that has the captial and the brains to run a successful business, like all of your CAFO owners are doing. I just want to keep eating my cheap food, and we aren’t getting anymore acres to grow crops food on, in fact it is getting smaller by the minute. I am also not really saying that we need a positive story for every negative one, but I can’t tell you the last time I saw a positive story on one of the big network TV stations portraying a Farmer/Agriculture as a good thing. I am a strong advocate for Agriculture and I truly believe that if people wouldn’t believe everything they are thrown at them from the news and actually went to a Farm or researched on their own then this world would be a better place. If we don’t stop the bashing of Agriculture, which not only feeds America, but also feeds the world, then we are all going to be feeling the pain when we pay for our things at the grocery store.

        • Ted

          In regards to not having to rely on farmers to eat, those weren’t my words. What I was implying was that if a farmer is afraid of transparency within his organization then I do not want to eat that product anyway, and I certainly do not need to rely on that particular farmer in order to eat.

          There are plenty of farms that people can visit, film, photograph and even take part in the process in order to feel more comfortable about the product they are consuming.

    • patrick

      we can do without farms to eat if we choose, but the FDA are making it illegal to do so, they raid food cooperatives on a daily basis, these are frequently Armed raids. As for concentrating on the bad apples, see how the mainstream media focus on the Agents Provocateur at OWS rallies, welcome to the club. Will exposing inhuman treatment of helpless creatures really hurt the farmers who treat animals with compassion?
      If you say it does then you are already compromised, you defend the indefensible. All it takes for evil to triumph is that good men do nothing.

  4. Anthony

    Jared, you have to be kidding me. You’re saying we’re better not exposing the bad apples because it will give everyone a bad reputation? That blows my mind that you would be so short sighted. There is plenty of proof that livestock can be raised commercially without abuse. The idea that we will go hungry because of the exposure of a few bad people is laughable. There is no defense for treating animals the way they are sometimes treated on these videos. Should we not expose pedophiles in the Church because of fear of giving the priesthood a bad reputation? Should we care that big oil gets a bad rep because of the careless behavior aboard BPs Gulf rig?

  5. Betty

    No, if it weren’t for those people children wouldn’t be dying from eating a hamburger. Those “farmers” have no souls and should be exposed. The whole negative image of an industry due to a few is bogus. By that reasoning, everyone would be thought of as a thief, rapist, etc. because of a few bad humans who have actually committed those crimes. Maybe, Jared, you should start thinking that every farm is good because there are good and responsible farmers out there?! Totally illogical thinking.

  6. Betty

    No, if it weren’t for those people children wouldn’t be dying from eating a hamburger. Those “farmers” have no souls and should be exposed. The whole negative image of an industry due to a few is bogus. By that reasoning, everyone would be thought of as a thief, rapist, etc. because of a few bad humans who have actually committed those crimes. Maybe, Jared, you should start thinking that every farm is good because there are good and responsible farmers out there?! Totally illogical thinking.

  7. Maria Callas

    God bless America (and its boiled frog nation, f.k.a. Americans), the land of the free and the home of the brave.

  8. Chris

    So what are they afraid of when someone takes photos?…oh ya people will see how terrible we treat these animals so corporations can make profits. Looks like another one of the ole good ole USA gov’t sticking up for corporations before people or animals.

  9. Gary Laudwell

    Fuck that fascist bullshit. People have the right to take any pictures they want from public property. If anyone tries to take away MY photos, then they will have no right to complain if they get their head blown off with my shotgun.
    Factory farmers should be running scared. They are unpatriotic anti-American cowards. They should be just as scared as pot farmers. At least pot farmers grow a productive crop and don’t murder and torture and pollute.

    • Norma

      If you read the law carefully–at least for Iowa–you will notice it does not mention anything about taking the photos from public property. It mentions taking photos from private property, using false pretenses to gain access, etc. I am not advocating these laws since I think we need to keep a close eye on these type of facilities. What I am saying though is that you should read everything carefully so you are fully aware before beginning ranting. You can’t fight what you don’t know.

  10. Terrence Harrington

    Crap like this will never stand up in court. It will be declared unconstitutional and abolished immediately.

    Monsanto will fight it, because they take pictures and video of the activities of farmers all the time.

  11. Sam

    People have a right to know what they are eating. What next, no health inspectors are allowed to look around in restaurants? How about farmers have nothing to hide. Protect, yes. But hide, no.

    If farmers use good practices, then it shouldn’t be a big deal to photograph?

    If they make the occasional infraction, it is in their best interest (for public safety and avoid lawsuits against them) that it comes to light as soon as possible, so they can correct it and avoid damages.

    If there are naughty farmers using terrible practices which hurt peoples health, wouldn’t the farmers who follow good practices appreciate those in violation being corrected, so that it doesn’t taint the entire industry? Or worse put pressure on them to use bad practices too, in order to compete?

    FL and Iowa farmers are going to suffer for this. Needs to be repealed immediately.

  12. jotunrunner

    Only evildoers need fear exposure. We aren’t talking about people doing the nasty in their own homes. We’re talking about people with product in the marketplace. “Intellectual Property”? like they have methods of killing and butchering that someone might steal? Really?
    Time for more homesteads, people with enough land to take care of the bulk of their food needs. more, smaller farms and ranches. perhaps not as capable of mass production of agricultural goods, but historically proven to be capable of keeping food on the table for whole civilizations. -and more competition, and generally more humane practices.
    a real cattleman is happy to show off his herd.

  13. GrowYourOwn

    Buy this book, before it is outlawed too – “The CAFO Reader: The Tragedy of Industrial Animal Factories”
    Please see:

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    Ho hum. 85 % of the food we eat is imported (and raised in human crap). What we import is MORE dangerous because
    DDT is STILL used overseas.

    Something is weird HERE and everwhat this is all about is again WEIRD.

    • William

      The main issue here is that big corporations are pushing for legislation to make it even harder for journalists to expose their corrupt and unsanitary ways.

      The US government is controlled by Big Business, not the ppl. Upton Sinclair would be rolling in his grave.

  16. Constance

    Even if farmers have nothing to hide, they still should be afraid of the animal rights terrorists. They can still take pictures that would make it seem like the farmer is torturing his animals, taken out of context and without showing the whole story. For example, they could take a picture as a farmer is bending over a cow that just broke it’s leg (through no fault of the farmer), and make it seem like the farmer was beating the cow and broke it’s leg. Also they can take a picture of one cow in a feedlot, and duplicate it to make it seem like there’s five hundred. There are too many ways to manipulate photos to tell any story you want. And those terrorists don’t have any consciences and certainly don’t mind smearing good farmers in the dirt.

  17. Lew

    Personally, I want to know where my, and my families, food comes from. If the farms in question are afraid of what the pictures will show then they need to be investigated and shut down, plus fined heavily and ail time levied against those directly responsible for any abuse or deceit.

  18. LoveFamilyFarming

    It’s not really so much about the ‘family farm’ as it is about ‘Corporate Farming – Big Business’. I personally know many farmers and farm families that would never abuse an animal….. they grow their own veggies and fruit crops. They care about the land and GOD’s creatures. Corporate Farms are a completely different entity…..and are pushing out family farming! Its all about the bottom dollar and greed for the corporate farm operations! They also do not care about the environment – which is also a very important topic. Trespassing is just that, trespassing. As ‘Norma’ pointed out – read the law carefully so we all have our facts correct.

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  21. Sara Ann

    People need to be able to take videos to uncover abuse! This would prevent farm workers from blowing the whistle on their employers! Otherwise, the abuse just gets hidden and keeps on happening.

    If they had nothing to hide, they wouldn’t be afraid of people with cameras!

    My neighbors treat their farm animals well, but I’ve seen many people who are deliberately cruel, and beat and torture their animals just because they are sadists!

    How many horses are trained with force, and beaten by cruel owners. Two out of 3 or my horses were so badly beaten they had scars on their bodies, and were terrified of people. It took years to build a trusting relationship. All because some idiot decided to beat them into submission!

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