Letter: Columnist defends stance on farming

Columnist defends stance on farming

To the editor:

As Americans we have certain inalienable rights. These are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. When a local ordinance restricts these inalienable rights by taking away citizens’ rights to defend their health, their property values, and their rights to petition, that ordinance has overstepped its bounds.

Prior to government deciding Indiana needed to be the pork-producing capital of the world, a mere nine years ago, there was a zoning balance between the needs of cities and municipalities and CFOs. Around the state, there was a two-mile buffer zone that protected cities and municipalities from the excesses of the CFO industry. We need this back.

If the state won’t do it for us, we need to do it for ourselves at the county level.

Indiana is an agricultural state, and that is the Hancock County legacy, too. It has been something to be proud of. There are farm families near and far who stretch back generations and want to pass the family business onto their children. I am not seeking to take their livelihoods away, nor do I hate them.

However, I will fight as long as necessary for equal protection under the law, and the Right to Farm Deed Restriction clearly creates imbalances with Joe Public’s rights vs. a farmer’s rights.

The public links farming with green pastures and happy creatures being fed and milked on time; but CFOs look less like farming and more like industry.

The county wouldn’t allow a tiny airstrip to turn into a major airport right next to neighborhoods. But the deed restriction allows a “family farm” to turn into a business that produces sometimes millions of gallons of manure every year with no compensation to those neighbors whose home values plummet as a result.

In response to my recent column on the subject, another writer mockingly suggested we require realtors to inform homebuyers about the Right to Farm Deed ordinance.

In my opinion, that would be the right thing to do, as buying a home shouldn’t be a “gotcha” situation. No doubt, this would be a moral dilemma for the realtors, the Hancock Economic Development Council and everyone trying to bring more business and residents into Hancock County.

I live here — in Greenfield, Hancock County, Indiana — and I expect the city, county, and state governments to protect my constitutional rights. And if they don’t, they will hear from me.

A conversation that includes all stakeholders, not just the agricultural side, is what needs to happen around the zoning issue and the deed restriction ordinance, in particular.

I have tried to get the attention of my community through writing articles; introducing a petition for resolution to the city of Greenfield; running for office so I could drive the issue; and providing viewpoints other than ag-centric to the county planning commission and county commissioners regarding this issue, because most Hancock County residents don’t know what they don’t know. And they should.

Not knowing could cost them the biggest investment they may ever make.

Donna Steele