American Pastoral

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Battus Look you now, yonder beast, she’s nought but skin and bone. Pray, doth she feed on dewdrops like the cricket?

Corydon Zeus! No. Why, sometimes I graze her alone the Aesarus and give her a brave bottle of the tenderest green grass, and oftentimes her play-ground’s in the deep shade of Latymnus.

Idyll IV. The Herdsmen — Theocritus

Theocritus is credited with inventing the pastoral genre. Virgil picked up the subject and idealized it by moving the action to Arcadia. Then Petrarch, Edmund Spenser, John Milton, and on in a constant evolution until today. The visual arts followed suit with pastoral scenes on Greek pottery, then the great medieval tapestries leading to later achievements of Poussin, Watteau, Constable, Turner, Grant Wood, Andrew Wyeth, etc. In fact, pastoral themes in the visual arts predate Theocritus by at least 15,000 years with the images of aurochs and dun horses in the caves in Lascaux, France. We have had artistic depictions of agriculture in one form or another for all of recorded history.

Well, Florida Senator Jim Norman (R-Tampa) is fed up and he's not going to take it anymore. He has introduced Senate Bill 1246, which would make it a first degree felony in the Sunshine State to make visual depictions of any property without written permission where agriculture operations are being conducted. Other first degree felonies in Florida are murder, rape, kidnapping, sexual battery, and child molestation. Burglary of an unoccupied structure and third degree grand theft are only third degree felonies. So if this bill passes and you want to photograph a cow, you are better off breaking into the barn, stealing it and photographing it off-site, a crime for which you might only get five years rather then thirty.

Here is the business end of the bill:

16  (2) A person who photographs, video records, or otherwise
17  produces images or pictorial records, digital or otherwise, at
18  or of a farm or other property where legitimate agriculture
19  operations are being conducted without the written consent of
20  the owner, or an authorized representative of the owner, commits
21  a felony of the first degree, punishable as provided in s.
22  775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084, Florida Statutes.  

23  (3) As used in this section, the term “farm” includes any
24  tract of land cultivated for the purpose of agricultural
25  production, the raising and breeding of domestic animals, or the
26  storage of a commodity.  

It is breathtakingly broad. Take note that this bill does not specify that you need to be on private property when making images. Florida already has trespassing laws to protect famers from those rowdy hordes of en plein air enthusiasts. This bill as written would make you a felon if you stop at a rest area on the highway and point your camera toward the adjoining wheat field. It would seem to make capturing satellite imagery a felonious undertaking. You could be breaking the law for making a sketch.

The Florida Tribune has more details. Here is Senator Norman's page with contact information at the Florida Senate.