Are EPA drones spying on US farmers?
There’s been a sort of mini freakout about EPA using drones to monitor cattle ranchers in the US midwest. So, what are these planes doing over Nebraska and Iowa?
A drone is an unmanned aircraft used for surveillance. Military drones–like the ones that took out al-Qaida’s second in command earlier this week–can be armed with missiles and other firepower, but the drones flying over the midwest United States are armed with something a little bit less scary: cameras.
The idea behind these drones is to monitor cattle ranches for Clean Water Act violations. EPA defended the surveillance in a letter. Here’s an excerpt:
Courts, including the Supreme Court, have found similar types of flights to be legal (for example to take aerial photographs of a chemical manufacturing facility) and EPA would use such flights in appropriate instances to protect people and the environment from violations of the Clean Water Act.
Some are calling this a violation of Fourth Amendment rights.
Big agriculture must hate this, right? We’ve seen agricultural interests blocking transparency by infringing on freedom of the press with so-called Ag Gag bills in big farming states. Do these fly-overs violate cattle ranchers’ civil liberties? Are aerial photos different from a on the ground inspections of big ranching operations?
The Daily Show’s John Stewart had a hilarious take on the EPA drones:
|The Daily Show with Jon Stewart||Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c|
|Game of Drones|
What do you guys think? Is this an overstep or an efficient way to prevent factory farms from polluting our waterways?
Image Credit: Creative Commons photo by Friends of Family Farmers