One of the more controversial bills before the legislature in the 2013 session was whether to restrict videotaping and other activities on farms. The intent was to prevent animal welfare groups from sending in people under false pretenses to video-tape things occurring on farms, especially large livestock farms, which could then be shown as dramatic examples of what's wrong with agriculture.
Katrina Hall, the new legislative director for Indiana Farm Bureau, Inc., says that last year's bill became entangled in first amendment rights issues, with some media and press organizations concerned that it might infringe on their ability to report news. Before the debate ended it also drew fire from animal welfare groups and from unions. The unions were concerned because of language that would have affected someone hiring on under false pretenses.
In the end the bill didn't pass, but was referred to a legislative study committee. The committee met and discussed the issue, with people on both sides of the issue testifying, but made no recommendations for the upcoming session.
"We don't know for sure what may be coming this time, but we want our members to know that we are aware of the issue wand will be following it closely," Hall says. "Our goal is to protect the rights of our members."
Indiana Farm Bureau policy supports legislation that would make trespass illegal without signs being posted if certain conditions were met. As it is now unless signs are posted, trespassers can't be prosecuted under the trespassing law, Hall says.
New language that Farm Bureau would support may talk about it being illegal to enter a person's property if there are buildings on it or obvious signs of cultivation or timber management, and you have intent to do harm in some way.
The other goal is to increase penalties for trespassing. One proposal would make it a class 6 felony, the lowest level of felonies, to be caught trespassing with intent to do harm to the farm operation.
Look for more complete details in the next issue of Indiana Prairie Farmer.