Farms were here first

To the editor:

In response to Donna Steele’s opinion piece (“Your property rights are in small print,” Oct. 11, A4), how is the Hancock County farm community subverting any resident’s interest?

I am not a farmer and have no financial interests in farms. When we moved to a rural area of Hancock County 35 years ago and were surrounded by farm fields; we certainly assumed, without the need to read any covenants, that we’d experience farm smells and every other annoyance associated with farming. This is the essence of “living in the country.”

Our farm neighbors spend their lives as land stewards and are often model generational farm families hoping to pass their farms and their passion for farming on to children, grandchildren and grandchildren’s grandchildren. These farmers were on this land before Greenfield, New Palestine, Fortville or McCordsville were spawned. Hancock County has excellent farmland, and our farmers feed many times the population of this county.

Farmers in this county are taxed on their property at a higher rate than any residential property owner while using fewer tax-supported services per capita. Taxpayer subsidies to farmers are not a new phenomenon and have certainly existed during my 70 years on Earth. There most likely are abuses to the program; however, the programs were designed to keep farmers in operation by stabilizing crop prices to ensure that Americans never walked into a supermarket only to find the shelves bare.

I’m certainly not an expert in confined feeding operations, but I am aware of state laws that tightly control manure operations at such facilities. If these laws are not being enforced we’ve got a systemic failure of enforcement, not a justification for eliminating ordinances that protect the ability of farm owners to stay in operation.

And when it comes to county road surfaces being damaged by farm equipment, feel free to leave the road gravel only. Farm equipment and farm trucks travel up and down the roads surrounding our home year-round and never cause the amount of damage that auto traffic creates when cars and trucks are detoured off the state highway onto the county roads for six months. Farm equipment doesn’t require roads to be paved — the roads are paved to satisfy the town and city residents.

If the Right to Farm Deed Restriction is unconstitutional, why hasn’t it been taken to court for a ruling? Certainly potential residents should be made aware that living in a rural area is not the same as living in an urban area. Maybe landowners and Realtors could be required to provide a copy of the Right to Farm Deed Restriction in large bold print to prospective residents.

Those desiring to move into the county should be required to sign a statement that they have visited a least five farming operations in the county, to include at least one CFO, and are totally aware of the sounds, smells and sights associated with modern farming operations.

Or, Ms. Steele’s advice could be followed and the current county commissioners pressured into, or future commissioners elected who would, eliminate the deed restriction so that agriculture can disappear from Hancock County and we can all experience the urban sprawl approaching our county on both the western and northern boundaries.

Michael Fleck