“Ever since the 1860s when photographers travelled the American West and brought photographs of scenic wonders back to the people on the East Coast of America, we have had a North American tradition of landscape photography used for the environment.”
Galen Rowell, 1940-2002, wilderness photographer and climber
This is a lovely time of year in Iowa. Beautiful fields with corn just beginning to poke out of the lush, rich midwest soil, gentle rolling hills, pastoral fields for cattle to graze, the air is fresh and clean, and the sky seems to go on forever. The perfect time of year to grab your camera and go for a long drive, returning with Norman Rockwell style photos of charming Midwest farms.
On March 17, 2011, the Iowa State House passed HF589 “An Act relating to offenses involving agricultural operations, and providing penalties and remedies.” Considering the description of this bill, one would think it was a law protecting consumers from agricultural operations that produce tainted food. Well, not exactly. Instead, this bill would criminalize the act of taking a photo of a farm.
Section 9. NEW SECTION 717A.2A Animal Facility Interference
“1. A person is guilty of animal facility interference, if the person acts without the consent of the owner of an animal facility to willfully do any of the following:
a.(1) Produce a record which reproduces an image or sound occurring at the animal facility ... “
There is an identical section relating to crops, Crop Operation Interference.
“1. A person is guilty of crop operation interference, if the person acts without the consent of the owner of a crop operation to willfully do any of the following:
a. Produce a record which reproduces an image or sound occurring at the crop operation ...“ [Section 14. NEW SECTION. 717A.3A]
If convicted of Animal Facility Interference or Crop Operation Interference, (aka taking pictures of a farm), the penalties are as follows: “a. ... first conviction, the person is guilty of an aggravated misdemeanor. b. For a second or subsequent conviction, the person is guilty of a class “D” felony.” [Sec. 9. 717A.2A Animal Facility Interference 2. a. and b.] and [Section 14. 717A.3A Crop Operation Interference 2. a. and b.]
You have to ask why the legislators would be concerned about people taking pictures of farms. Do they have something to hide? Do the farmers have something to hide? The Midwest is responsible for producing much of the food consumed in the United States. So why would anyone want to enact a law that makes it a crime to take a photo of a farm? What reason would the legislators in the state of Iowa have to pass this bill?
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has stated that foodborne illness is an important health burden in the United States today. They estimate that one in six Americans (approximately 48 million) get sick each year from foodborne illnesses. This study discusses known and unknown agents responsible for these illnesses. The CDC indicates that the thirty-one known agents are responsible for 9.4 million illnesses, 55,961 hospitalizations, and 1,351 deaths a year. The unknown agents are suspected to be responsible for an additional 38.4 million illnesses, 71,878 hospitalizations, and 1,686 deaths a year. Based on this 2011 study, contaminated food in the United States is responsible for 3,037 deaths a year.
Chef Paul Prudhomme once said, “We trust something in the grocery store and assume it’s good. We don’t learn about the most precious thing in life; the food we put in our body. Educate yourself!”
Educating yourself is the best defense in preventing a foodborne illness. With food recalls happening everyday, it is important to know where your food is produced. There are many resources on the Internet to help you source fresh, local food. I have listed several of my favorite sites at the end of this post.
I hope the Iowa State Senate has more common sense than the House, and does not pass HF589. Currently it’s not illegal to stand on a public street and take a picture of a farm. But here in Iowa, this may change. If it does, someone will need to notify Google to take down Street View. Meanwhile, I’m going on a long drive through the Iowa countryside, taking as many pictures as my 8GB card will hold.