Farm Photography Could Be a Thing of the Past

Could this picture get me arrested? Photo taken by author.

A tractor abandoned in a corn field. Rusty, swinging barn doors. A horse out to pasture — these are just some of the idyllic scenes that make farms such fertile environments for photography. But not for long. New legislation threatens to make all of this completely off-limits to photographers.

A new bill introduced by Republican Florida State Senator Jim Norman aims to make it a felony to film or take pictures in or of farms without the express written consent of the farm’s owner. The bill (which you can read in full here) is just three paragraphs long, yet it manages to trample all over the First Amendment rights photographers have cherished for over 200 years.

The bill’s second section includes a bizarre prohibition against the production of ANY image of a farm. That could mean a school child’s crayon drawing. The worst part however, according to Salon’s Barry Doyle, is the bill’s insistence that any picture taken of the farm by a photographer standing on public property is unlawful.

In other words, Google Maps should be shaking in its boots.

Many believe this bill is not designed to protect the lonely family farms in the middle of nowhere, rather it’s to keep photographers from filming possible animal abuse in large factory farms. In fact, it’s been revealed recently that the bill itself was indirectly requested by Tampa Farm Service, Florida’s second-largest egg farm.

While the First Amendment protects photography in most cases, Norman’s bill would fly in the face of those rights and call you a felon even if you snapped a cell phone picture of a farm while driving by on the highway. And that is nothing to laugh at — a first degree felony in Florida carries with it a possible sentence of up to 30 years in prison.