Environmental, farm, animal rights groups clash over Indiana farm practices bill

Photo: Sen. Carlin Yoder. Indiana state Sen. Carlin Yoder says his proposed legislation protects farmers from legal attacks against the industry. Photo: Sen. Carlin Yoder.

 

Legislators and environmentalists in Indiana are engaged in a full-on tug-of-war over a Senate bill that would give enhanced support to farmers throughout the state.

If passed by the House, this bill would require Indiana law to  favor  farmers during legal cases, and protect farmers who use “generally accepted farming and livestock production practices” from getting sued. Organizations like the Hoosier Environmental Council and the Humane Society of the United States say these “generally accepted practices,” can lead to the pollution of waterways with pathogens and E. coli, food safety problems related to antibiotic and growth hormone use, animal cruelty, odor and air pollution. These are of huge concern and do not deserve the protection this bill would provide, they say.

But supporters disagree.

The bill’s author, Sen. Carlin Yoder, R-Middlebury, says the proposal would protect farmers long term from organizations that continually attack farming and the profession.

“When you read what we are putting in the code, it’s just a simple paragraph that says that we will continue to protect the rights of farmers,” said Yoder. “Farmers are going to continue to be able to make a living and be able to utilize their practices that are generally accepted. This translates to food on the table and being able to provide for their families.

Kim Ferraro, the Hoosier Environmental Action Council’s water and agriculture policy director and staff attorney, described potential conflicts as “infringing on the property rights of our fellow citizens.”

That relates to the support for increased farm production, which could decrease the value of homes next to new farms, she said.

Environmental and animal rights groups are urging Hoosiers to get involved and to stop the bill.

“If legislators don’t hear from their constituents on issues of concern, they necessarily won’t think that anybody cares about it and all they will be hearing from is agro-business lobbyists,” said Ferraro.

“Real people with real problems and real concerns need to be speaking out,” Ferraro said.

Articles posted on the organization’s Action Center web page, and various Facebook posts, asks the public to urge legislators to reject the measure.

The Humane Society of the United States is also posting information on its website about the issue, saying that having a voice is key to stopping the bill from being written into law.

Meanwhile, supporters like Yoder are continuing to push the legislation, saying it will advance the state’s agricultural efforts.

The Indiana Farm Bureau is among the agricultural organizations that agree that there would be major benefits from such a law.

farm Lee Kreider Environmental groups argue the legislation will protect farmers even under the potential circumstances of pollution, animal cruelty and more. Photo: Lee Kreider.

Amy Cornell, policy advisor and counsel state government relations at the Farm Bureau, said those benefits include not only support for Indiana farmers, but also a focus on producing quality food for all Hoosiers and an overall strengthened economy by protecting the rights for farmers to continue growing their business.

In a formal statement, the Farm Bureau said, “It is equally important that our laws protect the right

s of Hoosiers to advance and grow all businesses, including farms, to strengthen Indiana’s economy and make Indiana a positive place to work, play and raise a family. Farmers need to be able to choose from all farming and husbandry practices to be successful in raising food, feed, fiber and fuel for this and future generations.”

As the bill continues through the legislative process, Ferraro of the Environmental Action Council said it looks as though Indiana is headed to a time where state governmental agencies would be directed to construe state law to favor ”big agro-business.”

“So if there are two parties before a judge in a case, one the owner of a ‘factory farm’ and one an injured landowner, under this law the judge has to decide in favor of the factory farm owner,” Ferraro said.

The Indiana Senate passed the bill by a 40-8 vote on Jan. 23.  It has been referred to the House Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development.

  • Kathleen

    I heartily agree with most of what you say, Dogman (though the idea that animals ever nobly “sacrifice” their lives is a romantic notion–their lives are taken from them). For instance, “standard industry practice” for disposing of unwanted or sick factory farmed piglets is blunt force trauma–in other words, slamming their heads against the floor. Video link here if you dare to watch:
    http://www.nbcnews.com/news/investigations/tyson-foods-dumps-pig-farm-after-nbc-shows-company-video-v21534986 and

    http://atwork.avma.org/2012/07/21/hot-on-facebook-euthanasia-of-suckling-pigs-using-blunt-force-trauma/

    As for the pricey meat alternatives–animal carcass meat would likely cost at least as much without all the government subsidies taxpayers sink into its production. Factory farming of animals is a lose-lose-lose proposition: animals lose, environment loses, humans lose. But it’s a big win for corporations, and this misguided Indiana bill will make corporations even bigger winners. Just what the 99% needs, right?

  • Dogman

    I personally do not have a problem with farming, it is necessary to feed the people of the world. My problem lies in the practices themselves. As a young man I worked on a hog farm for several years. I will never talk about the atrocities to the animals I witnessed while working for that man. I was raised on a farm, worked the trucks and tractors during planting and harvest, dried grain, and worked the animals. I was too young then to realize what was really going on, but looking back it tears at my soul the way that man treated his ‘livestock’.

    I am a realist. I do not eat meat. But I am one of the few that believe that we all have our own paths to follow to our enlightenment. Our Native American brothers killed animals and ate meat, but they did it with respect to the animals spirit, the way it was supposed to be, thanking the animal for his sacrifice of life in order to continue our own. I do not have the heart to kill, it is not in me, so I cannot partake of flesh.

    I think a lot of animal farmers are afraid of losing their farms if they give up the cruel way they are raising their animals.

    How many of you farmers know that most of us that do not eat meat pay up to $20 a pound for quality meat replacements? How much are you being paid for your soy and wheat? I still live in the country, and I know they don’t pay anywhere near $1 a pound.

    Have you considered processing your own meat replacement and establishing your place in the future of agriculture? Processing veggie items is less expensive than processing live animals. And whether you all like it or not, there is a growing trend away form eating meat. The truth of the sacrifice to our health if nothing else is waking people up to what meat can do.

    There is a huge market opening up for people that don’t eat meat. Use Google and do a little research into the growing profits in the vegetarian and vegan food markets. It is only going to get bigger.

    We need farmers today more than ever, you are truly the heart and soul of this nation. But the practice being used today are archaic, and need to change with a world that is changing. Swimming against the current wastes time and energy, move with the flow.

  • Kathleen

    If the extremist Farm Bureau is for it, ordinary citizens had better beware! Sounds like a corporate give-away to industrial factory farms–look for the fingerprints of ALEC all over it. And if you’re worried about “feeding the world,” you’ll do it with plant-based agriculture, not animal agriculture, which consumes far more in valuable resources than it EVER returns in actual food. Animal ag is not sustainable:

    “Estimates are that a 1/3 pound burger requires 660 gallons of water to be produced, most of which is for the beef. One pound of beef requires 1,799 gallons, a pound of cheese requires 700 gallons…” (from an EPA blog post)

    Take a look at this
    http://indianalawblog.com/archives/2014/01/sb_186_referred.html

    and this, from Kosciusko County, where ordinary people’s lives are upended by Goliath corporations that run roughshod over them
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i_AfwJKcaiw

  • Tom

    I like rolling fields and even legally formed ag districts that let newcomers or would-be newcomers that they’re moving in to an agricultural area (farmers being pro-active). I don’t believe in eminent domain for private endeavors, but for public entities, only. But, when it comes to lawsuits, courtrooms, etc., I prefer level playing-fields. That is why we have a balance of powers in our constitution. However, within that balance are some judges with too much absolute power and that makes all of this unsettling to me. Maybe that is why the lawmaking branch is over-reaching or seemingly that way. I am a farmer and landowner, but I don’t want farmers to have absolute power, either!

  • Stefany

    Doris is right. Our precious farmland is being eaten up by warehouses and vinyl villages. Not only does this effect soil and water quality, it also effects a rising global concern of feeding the world. The population continues to rise but the amount of farmland contiues to decrease. Do you enjoy eating? Do you enjoy having clothes to wear? These basic needs are met because those who practice agriculture, whether it be in large production, small scale or in research capacities, have grown it. Agriculture is the foundation for all things.

    To the Hoosier Environmental Action Council: How are we going to feed our own and those in other parts of the world with fewer farms? The United States, like it or not, is tasked with doing just this–feeding the world. And because we have less farmland to work with, we have to apply more fertilizer and pesticides to preserve the products traveling within state borders, outside state borders and across the seas. If you don’t like the idea of applying topical agents to your food, then grow it yourself! Do you want to eat food without pesticides? Then till up some of that half-acre plot your over-sized house sits on and plant your own garden. Stop going to the grocery store–everything you buy contains all that you protest against. Don’t tell farmers what they are doing wrong when you’ve never done it yourself or would even consider making a living off of doing it.

    We MUST protect our farmland and protect it from being claimed as eminent domain when industry and real estate developers, and town councils decide they have better uses for that land. Guess what? I don’t even live on a farm! But I do have a fond appreciation for agriculture and our farmers because it and what they do affords me with the things in which I use every day to stay alive.

    I applaud Sen. Yoder for proposing this bill. I hope everyone understands the positive impact this will have.

  • Doris

    That relates to the support for increased farm production, which could decrease the value of homes next to new farms, she said.

    What ‘new farms’? Farms are not new! It is the homes that are moving into farm country that are creating the ‘problems’. Generally because the people in the homes don’t know what they are getting into when they move to rural areas. Ya, tractors leave cow shit in the road, deal with it, or go back to town!