My office walls are adorned with various versions of the Prairie Farmer No Trespassing Sign, some dating back decades. One tin sign also talks about Prairie Farmer's Protective Union.
The Protective Union was an effort to follow up on problems farmers were having, from disputes with neighbors to companies that didn't deliver a quality product through the mail. In these days of complicated legal jargon, it takes a bank of attorneys to solve some of those issues, and the Protective Union no longer functions.
However, the message behind No Trespassing signs and the protective union sign, when it did function, was "You are a farmer, probably a landowner, and you value your rights. We value your rights. We want to do all we can to help you."
The earliest No Trespassing Signs were likely there to deter chicken thieves. There's even an original Prairie Farmer chicken tattoo kit in the drawer that was used to number chickens with a tattoo so that if chickens were stolen, the county sheriff could track the thief.
There are still thieves out there, some the garden variety, who want to steal your lawnmower or weed whacker. However, there are sophisticated ones who would resent being called a thief. Nonetheless, they want to steal your rights to control who is on your property at any time and for what reason.
Indiana Farm Bureau's Amy Cornell actually heard an environmental spokesperson testify a t a legislative hearing earlier this summer that it was more important to protect the public's food supply than the individual rights of the farmer! Translated, trespassing is OK if it turns up something the farmer is doing that, in the trespasser's eyes, is harmful to the food supply.
Where did such an idea come from? More than 20 years ago I visited with foreign journalists, especially those from highly socialized Europe, including Germany, who argued that the public views land differently in his country. There isn't much of it, and it belongs to everybody, or so citizens believe.
What does that mean? If the journalist and his family want to walk into your woods on a Sunday afternoon and have a picnic, nobody should care. After all, the trees that make up the woods belong to everyone, not just the farmer who owns the land on paper.
Try to argue with someone who holds that opinion! "Obamacare" may bring more than just social medicine – maybe that's why we have it. Enough people see the supposed good of the country as being more important than individual rights, especially if it's someone else's rights, not theirs, that are being ignored.
My late father didn't endure Pearl Harbor and fight World War II so someone from town could stop their car and walk his children back to see my lambs, without ever asking me if it was OK. My uncle didn't fly planes in World War II and the Korean Conflict so that someone could sneak into my neighbor's farrowing barn and shoot pictures black-and-white pictures of sows in crates, so they could use it to make skewed accusations about animal care.
Harry Truman became famous for saying 'The buck stops here." As president, he was ultimately responsible for what went wrong or went right. Maybe today's leaders, including state representatives and senators who are pressured by those who think walking onto your farm is no big deal, should go back and read about real history. When Truman said it, it wasn't empty air. It was genuine – and he meant every word.
It's time to stand up for your rights. Indiana Farm Bureau suspects there may be another "no trespassing" debate in the next session. Be sure you follow it. Make sure legislators know that if they're going to tax your land, they should help you protect it. The buck stops on their desk this time.