Bill Cultivates Discussion About Public Access to Farms

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January 7, 2014 by IBPS’ Brandon Smith

A proposal getting attention on the first day of Indiana’s 2014 legislative session is getting framed in diverse characterizations.

Proponents call it a measure designed to protect the property rights of Indiana farmers.  Opponents call it an effort to keep the public in the dark about what happens on Indiana farms.

The proposed legislation in its second consecutive session would criminalize photographing or videotaping agricultural operations if the business is harmed.

Markle Republican Senator Travis Holdman’s legislation criminalizes any activity on agricultural operation property, such as photography or videotaping, that results in financial loss for that business.  The bill would make the crime, depending on the amount of the loss, anywhere from a misdemeanor to a low-level felony.

Indiana Pork Producers executive director Josh Trenary says farmers need to control who comes on their property, “You have to start creating some kind of deterrent there where people just can’t come in and use footage to further an activist agenda.  If they’re coming in to take footage, they’re doing it to address a specific illegal activity and handing that in to the proper authorities.”

Erin Huang is the Indiana state director for the Humane Society.  She says the bill deters public discourse, trying to shield the Indiana agricultural industry from scrutiny, “Senate Bill 101 shows just how much industrial ag has to hide that they’re willing to go to such lengths to keep Americans in the dark about how they’re treating animals and what’s happening in our food supply.”

Indiana Broadcasters Association general counsel Dan Byron says the bill bottles up free speech, creating serious questions about its constitutionality.  A Senate committee is expected to vote on the bill next week.


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