Indiana has a Right to Farm law. For various reasons and because of rumblings about opposition to animal confinement units around the state, Senate Bill 186 was introduced to further clarify the importance of agriculture and animal production. This language would be added to existing law. The House companion bill is Bill 1200. Senate Bill 186 passed out of the Senate Committee hearing the bill unanimously in mid-January.
Indiana Farm Bureau is on record applauding the efforts of the lawmakers carrying and supporting the bill. Indiana Prairie Farmer concurs and would like to thank them for their efforts.
What's troubling is that environmental groups are hitting below the belt to try to defeat this bill. The Hoosier Environmental Council, often considered a reasonable environmental group, appears to be leading the charge with articles on their Website opposing the bill.
What's most troubling is the crude, shady radio spots running on some radio stations that oppose the bill. The spots are misleading, at best. At worst, the people who wrote and paid for them know that the information in the ads isn't 100% factual, but they are running them anyway.
The ads are in the spirit of all successful environmental pushes to defeat their opponents – they're long on scaring folks and stirring up emotion, and short on facts.
One ad I've heard personally begins with a female voice, presumably a housewife in suburbia, complaining that the smell from the "factory farm" pig operation is so bad that sometimes she and her family must rent motel rooms "just to keep their sanity." The same ad also talks about harmful waste "sprayed on the land." They imply that the waste carries pathogens that can magically drift off into the air and pose a human safety risk.
On the Hoosier Environmental Council Website, there's an article that refers to lagoons as cesspools and reiterates that harmful waste is sprayed on the ground.
Chances are you may not know anybody that's a part of the Hoosier Environmental Council. If you do, you might want to set them straight on a few facts. First and foremost, the vast majority of animal confinement units in Indiana presently are not "factory farms." Many are owned by individual farmers and their families. Even most farmers who raise pigs on contract for someone else are doing it as a family farming venture.
The business may be incorporated for tax reasons, but at the end of the day, it's a famer and his family raising animals, just like grandpa did 40 years ago, but on a larger scale. It's about time the people who oppose confinement units understand who really owns them, and whose livelihood they are threatening with their protests.
Second, most lagoons are properly maintained, and they are not "cesspools." Aerated properly and with bacteria at work, they actually break down waste.
Third, most farmers today, especially those with large confinement operations, don't "spray" manure on the surface. Many inject it because they want to capture the fertilizer value of the nutrients. Implying that human pathogens will rise up in the air and drift into neighborhoods borders on the ridiculous.
Keep up the fight
Tell the facts to anyone who will listen. Be thankful that it appears our legislators understand how farms actually operate, and the livelihood they represent for Hoosier farm families and for business in Indiana.
If you're not sure where your legislators stand on this issue, email them or give them a call. Tell them that Senate Bill 186 is important because it reaffirms the common sense most Hoosiers have in supporting farm families and agriculture in general.
Those who oppose protecting farmers and their right to raise livestock will continue to express their opinion. They have a legal right to do so. You have a constitutional right to express your opinion as well. Make sure your voice is heard and that your beliefs count.