Remember all those videos youâ€™ve seen lately depicting various forms of animal cruelty and other heinous practices in some large agribusiness facilities?Â Hereâ€™s one I told you about last year.Â In Florida, the newly ensconced legislature is about to make the production of such videos a felony punishable by up to 30 years in prison.Â Had this bill been in force a few years ago, it might well have been used to put all the people behind the famous documentary Food, Inc. in prison.
The bill, filed as SB 1246 by Florida state senator Jim Norman, (R-Tampa), is likely to pass both houses of the Republican led legislature and be signed by Gov. Rick Scott.
While no one condones breaking and entering or trespass, this bill is clearly not meant to address that.Â It may as well be titled â€œThe Factory Farm Environmental Degradation and Animal Cruelty Protection Act.â€Â Itâ€™s sole purpose is to prevent the embarrassment and public exposure of the uglier side of American agriculture.Â They want to make sure that the only story you see or hear is the bucolic rolling hills and Old-MacDonald image that large agribusiness and their lobbyists want you to see.
Make no mistake, there are plenty of great farmers in Florida and across the country who do not use such practices as have been exposed in undercover video by PETA and others.Â And itâ€™s true that such videos tend to cast a light that is as broad as it is stark, making well-meaning farmers look worse than they are.Â But this is not about the farmers, nearly all of whom are good, honest people trying to earn a living from the land and leave something tangible for their families.Â No, this is about image and branding and it is brought to you from on high.
As my friend Chris Bedford pointed out recently,
â€œThis development (perhaps part of a larger American Legislative Exchange Council ALEC initiative) in and of itself does not signal the end of anything.Â But proposals like this one and Michigan’s HB 4306 (which mandates privatization of non-classroom school functions including food service) should be seen in the context of the larger push back against the local food revolutionâ€¦ that will be at the heart of the Farm Bill 2012 debate.â€
Ghandi famously said, â€œFirst they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, and then you win.â€Â While noble efforts are being made at reconciliation between food activists and agribusiness conglomerates, make no mistake that we are now at stage 3 of Ghandiâ€™s theory, and very powerful interests are turning their full attention toward the people and organizations (many of them farmers themselves) who are at the front of the real food movement.Â We should be prepared to face them with clear eyes and full hearts.