Editor, Times-Union:
There is a law going through the State legislature that is indeed strange. It is one of a number of bills dubbed “ag-gag” winding their ways through a number of state legislatures. The Senate has already passed it as SB373 and is in the house as HB1562. I’m providing the official synopsis to the bill.
Agricultural and industrial operations. Makes it unlawful recording of agricultural or industrial operations, a Class A infraction, for a person, with intent to harass, defame, annoy, or harm, to: (1) enter real property that is owned by another person and on which agricultural operations or industrial operations are being conducted; (2) take a photograph of or make a video recording or motion picture of the real property, structures located on the real property, or the agricultural operations or industrial operations being conducted on the real property; and (3) distribute the photograph or recording; without the written consent of the owner of the real property or an authorized representative of the owner. Increases the penalty to a Class B misdemeanor if the offense is committed knowingly or intentionally and the person has a prior unrelated judgment or conviction. Establishes a defense if the person: (1) has a good faith belief that the person was recording evidence of illegal activity; (2) provides the recording to a law enforcement or regulatory agency within 48 hours; and (3) does not distribute the recording to anyone other than a law enforcement or regulatory agency.
The bill also requires the board of animal health to establish a registry of persons convicted of crimes concerning agricultural operations and livestock. (Item 33) I wonder if someone on the registry is prohibited from living in the country or within so many feet of a farm operation.
The complete bill is at http://www.in.gov/legislative/bills/2013/SB/SB0373.2.html
The bill also defines agricultural and industrial operations so that mining, drilling and other activities would be included. It also appears to prohibit photographing an operation from offsite such as on a public road or on adjacent property and to keep videos off YouTube.
It seems that bills such as this are designed to make it very difficult for someone to document what they think is wrong with some operation. The 48-hour limit is ridiculous. Over 48 hours of surveillance is needed to document some crimes. A person could get in a situation where a crime has been documented but because it took longer than 48 hours, the person would be arrested. Could this person then appear on the registry?
This bill is clearly designed to protect industry – especially agricultural - from scrutiny by intimidating whistle blowers. It is designed to keep information from the general public. In the various states where this type of bill is being proposed, the agricultural industry is a big supporter.
My recommendation is that you tell your state house member NOT to pass HB1562.
James Streator
Claypool, via e-mail