The author of a constitutional amendment to protect hunting and fishing has introduced the proposal this year without language that would protect farmers as well.
Sen. Brent Steele’s original amendment passed its first round in 2011 but needed approval this year to go on the ballot for ratification by voters. But now – with new language – the process will start over.
Steele, R-Bedford, said Monday the agricultural community asked him to remove the language that was meant to ensure livestock farming could continue, despite opposition from animal rights groups.
“I will say that it was not my idea,” Steele said. “I told them that they’ve got to get some guts. I told them to grow some horns because they’re going to get run around the pasture, and there’s no language that’s going to mollify their opposition. Their opposition will not be happy with any language.”
Steele acknowledged his original language was controversial among environmentalists and animal rights groups, who feared it would prevent future laws meant to protect land or livestock, or put limits on puppy mills.
But Steele said he believes that “if I was willing to fight and the legislature was willing to put our necks on the line and take the heat” then the language of the amendment should have been fine.
“But,” he continued, “there are some agriculture producers in this state that don’t have any guts and begged me to pull (the farming component). I think it was a mistake, but I pulled it.”
With farming left out of the constitutional amendment, Sen. Carlin Yoder, R-Middlebury, introduced Senate Bill 186, which would put the farm protections into state law instead. The goal is to give the courts guidance to interpret state laws to be sympathetic toward farming interests.
The Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee passed SB 186 on Monday.
Before the vote, Kim Ferraro, staff attorney of the Hoosier Environmental Council, spoke against the bill. Ferraro said it would favor the agriculture industry and harm the environment as well as threaten the rights of personal property owners.
“Although HEC hasn’t fully analyzed the likely impacts of enshrining hunting and fishing rights into Indiana’s constitution – rights that current SJR 9 would create, we can say, generally, that any constitutionally-protected activity is extremely difficult, if not impossible, for state and local policymakers to subsequently control,” Ferraro said in a previous press release.