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Ag trespass, farm protection bills ready for governor’s signature

By Kathleen M. Dutro, Public Relations Team

Two bills that address farmers’ rights in general and the right against trespass in particular have passed both houses of the Indiana General Assembly.

Senate Enrolled Act 101, which addresses trespassing, and SEA 186, which declares the state policy on agriculture and farmers’ rights, were headed to the governor for his signature as of The Hoosier Farmer’s March 3 deadline.

Removing the posting burden to enforce trespassing laws is a longstanding Indiana Farm Bureau policy, noted Amy Cornell, IFB state government relations policy advisor and counsel. SEA 101, authored by Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle, will do just that.

Under the legislation, which is effective July 1 of this year, Indiana farmers will not be required to post “no trespassing” signs to protect the production areas of their farms. If a trespasser commits an intentional act that causes property damage, it could result in additional penalties, depending on the amount of damage caused, Cornell explained.

Furthermore, the bill adds causing property damage to an agricultural operation to the existing crime of institutional criminal mischief. The provisions of SEA 101 provide a greater deterrent effect for those who intend harm to the property owner or his business. After passing the Senate 41-5, SEA 101 passed the House with no amendments on a 73-25 vote.

“Throughout the process IFB has contended that farms and their economic viability are often harmed by trespassers, and that farmers should be not be burdened with the obligation to post signs in every field and on every building they own,” IFB said in the statement it released upon the bill’s passage. “We are gratified that the Indiana General Assembly agrees.”

SEA 186, authored by Sen. Carlin Yoder, R-Middlebury, declares the state policy on agriculture and farmers’ rights.

“IFB strongly supports legislation that strengthens and reaffirms Indiana’s vision for and commitment to agriculture,” Cornell said. “The bill further states that the Indiana Code shall be construed to protect the rights of farmers to choose among all generally accepted farming and livestock production practices, including the use of ever-changing technology.”

IFB is especially thankful for the leadership shown by the House sponsor, Rep. Don Lehe, R-Brookston, and the Senate author, Sen. Carlin Yoder, R-Middlebury. Despite a misleading media campaign by the bill’s opponents, these legislators stood firm in support of Indiana agriculture, noted IFB President Don Villwock.

“We appreciate that the House understood the true context of SB 186, and are thankful for their thoughtful deliberation and favorable vote,” he said.

“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,” Cornell added.

After passing the Senate 40-8, SEA 186 passed the House without amendments, 59-28.

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