Pharos-Tribune

Opinion

March 2, 2014

THEIR VIEW: Latest ag bill should be stifled

The latest version of an agricultural bill that supporters say would protect farmers from criminal acts on their property is headed to the full House of the Indiana General Assembly for a vote.

The bill is expected to pass easily with the Republican supermajority in the House. A final reading and vote is expected as early as next week.

We believe this is bad legislation.

S.B. 101 was moved out of the House Judiciary Committee by a vote along party lines. The bill would make trespassing on the production area of farm property a criminal offense and causing damage to a farm an act of criminal mischief.

There are real concerns with this portion of the bill, especially because we believe it makes substantial changes to trespass laws that have been on the books for decades. The changes likely will cause unintended consequences and lots of confusion for farmers and police alike.

The bill is commonly referred to as “ag gag,” and opponents argue it would obstruct animal- and environmental-rights groups and those worried about First Amendment protections.

The Hoosier State Press Association has said 11 states considered ag-gag legislation last year, but none of the bills became law.

The bill now before the full House shouldn’t become Indiana law either.

Laws currently exist that protect agribusiness owners from people who gain access to their property without permission or who use distorted photos or videos to damage a business.

This latest effort is another attempt to keep Hoosiers in the dark and hamper whistle-blowers and journalists from investigating a business’s potential wrongdoings.

Perhaps most worrisome is the fact that this bill would, in effect, allow agribusinesses to define a crime instead of the General Assembly, whose job it is.

We need more transparency in the food production process to protect the health and safety of Hoosiers. This bill does nothing to move that process further along.

— South Bend Tribune

THE ISSUE Transparency in the food production process THEIR VIEW New agriculture bill does nothing to move that process along.

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