By MARIANNE HOLLAND
The Hoosier Environmental Council
The Hoosier Environmental Council, Indiana’s largest environmental policy organization, is warning residents in Indiana’s lakeside communities about a sweeping measure moving through the Indiana General Assembly that could decrease their ability to protect the waterways they enjoy for recreation, drinking water and natural beauty.
Senate Joint Resolution 12, the so-called ‘Right to Farm’ amendment to the Indiana Constitution’s Bill of Rights would create a guaranteed right to “employ effective agricultural technology and livestock production and ranching practices” which include the industry’s widespread use of millions of gallons of untreated animal waste (stored in multi-acre, unlined lagoons) as well as several hundred thousand tons of fertilizers and pesticides, industry practices that are leading causes of water contamination in Indiana.
Enshrining special rights in the constitution exclusively for agribusinesses, rights that would enjoy the same enhanced protection as our fundamental right to vote and freedoms of speech and religion , would provide the industry with significantly enhanced legal immunity and protection not enjoyed by any other industry in the state. The special constitutional protection would have the practical effect of making it very hard for state environmental regulators to protect lakes, rivers, soil, and landowners from pollution resulting from industrial crop production and industrial livestock operations.
Indiana lake associations, watershed organizations, angler and boating groups, and recreational users are working to reverse the impacts of sediment runoff, excess nutrients such as phosphorus, dangerous chemicals such as atrazine, and infectious bacteria such as E. coli that come from fertilizer, pesticides and livestock waste. These pollution problems have resulted in reduced lakeside property values, fish kills, toxic blue-green algae blooms, and decreased recreational enjoyment of lakes. Yet, SJR 12 would threaten the hard work and progress our lakes communities are making to clean up and protect their lakes.
“SJR 12 is completely unnecessary. The Ag industry, just like other industries, trades and professions, has the right to employ its chosen industry practices within legal constraints in place for protection of public health and safety, the environment, and animals,” said Kim Ferraro, senior staff attorney for the Hoosier Environmental Council. “Providing constitutional protection for the industry’s practices effectively removes the legal constraints. Hoosiers who are concerned about protecting our lakes, streams, and groundwater should be very concerned about SJR 12.”
Senate Joint Resolution 12 will be heard on Monday, Feb. 16, in the Senate Agriculture Committee. If it passes out of committee, it will then go to the full Indiana Senate for consideration.
People who want to learn more about the harmful effects of pollution on lakes from factory farm and industrial crop production practices can visit: http://www.hecweb.org/issues/clean-water/understanding-the-issues/nutrient-pollution/