(STATEHOUSE) - A pair of bills aimed at shielding farmers from outside opposition are on their way to Governor Pence.
The House gave final approval to a bill increasing penalties for trespassing on farmland, and a second which asserts farmers' rights to use all generally accepted practices.
House Agriculture Chairman Don Lehe (R-Brookston) says farmers shouldn't have to defend technological advances in court against what he calls "a small group of folks who want a different way to produce." He says agricultural innovation has reduced the amount of waste farms produce while steadily increasing productivity.
Environmentalists charge the bill would give farmers close to a blank check to pollute the air and water.
The trespassing bill has its roots in farmers' complaints about animal rights activists sneaking onto their property to shoot pictures and videos. But supporters say the problem is far deeper, and simpler, than that. Farmers testified about hunters and snowmobilers doing damage to their fields, knocking down fences, or picking mushrooms they had planned on harvesting themselves.
Along with increased penalties, the bill removes a requirement that "no trespassing" signs be posted on the property line before charges can be filed.
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