With the 2015 legislative session of the Indiana General Assembly rapidly coming to a close, NUVO received the following letter to the editor from the Indiana Farm Bureau on April 22:
To the editor:
Indiana Farm Bureau and its members are not opposed to annexation when it is voluntary. However, the forced annexation process that Indiana currently allows is heavily weighted in favor of cities and towns. That is simply not fair.
If the leaders of a city or town decide that they want to annex an area and the landowners are not willing to be annexed, those landowners have two alternatives: Give in, or take the town to court.
The lives of those landowners will change overnight. They cannot imagine the amount of work or money needed to fight off an annexation.
In order to challenge an annexation in court, those landowners have to determine which of their neighbors are in the annexation area, contact them and gather signatures on a petition. And they have to raise money on their own to pay for an attorney.
Even if landowners win the initial court battle, they will most likely spend years fighting because cities and towns almost always appeal, and they have the resources of government behind them.
It's just too hard, too time consuming and too expensive for ordinary citizens to fight off an annexation. No citizen should be forced to go to court to protect his ordinary everyday rights as a landowner.
Senate Bill 330, which is currently making its way through the Indiana General Assembly, could change all that. Indiana Farm Bureau urges state legislators to vote in favor of needed reforms that protect landowner rights in the annexation process.
Indiana is one of only two states that allow forced annexation. It's time for us to join the rest of the country and stop forcing landowners to give in to the whims of city and town officials who make unsubstantiated claims about growth, progress and economic development.
President, Indiana Farm Bureau
Well, now. How very chivalrous of the Farm Bureau, standing up for the little guy.
Why, one wonders, is the Indiana Farm Bureau getting its combines in a twist over SB 330? Smelling a CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation) somewhere off in the distance, we rang up Kim Ferraro, senior staff attorney and director of Water Policy for the Hoosier Environmental Council.
Simply put, "This is all about allowing unfettered expansion of big agriculture here in Indiana," says Ferraro.
First, some background from Ferraro — stay with us, this gets a little wonky:
"There's a bunch of right-to-farm legislation that people get confused about. There was a state Constitutional amendment that got defeated this year — we know it'll come back next year. Then there's SB 249 — that one, in its original form, sought to eliminate home rule authority for local governments to regulate confined animal feeding operations; basically eliminating the ability of counties and municipalities to say no, a CAFO doesn't belong here. Local cities and towns and some of the lobby groups for local government pushed back hard against that to protect home rule, and so the bill was amended to require Purdue to do a study on the impact of local zoning laws and the ability of agriculture to thrive economically.