If You Know What You’re Talking About–You’re Out of Order

When does the General Assembly go home? It can’t be soon enough.

Not content with ethical lapses, efforts to control women’s bodies and protect homophobia   (aka “religious liberty”) and bring public education to its knees, the eager beavers at the Statehouse have filed three (count them–three!) bills intended to disable any efforts to protect Hoosier air and water, and to keep those smarty-pants scientific “experts” from making environmental rules.

SJR 12 would amend the Indiana Constitution (these guys just love to screw around with the Constitution) to add a guaranteed right to “employ effective agricultural technology and livestock production and ranching practices.” I’m sure you are as touched as I am by this proposal to give the same sacred protection to livestock production practices as we human animals have with our right to vote and freedoms of speech and religion, and I’m also sure it’s just coincidental that passage of this nonsense will make it very hard for state regulators to protect Hoosiers from factory farm pollution.

Then there’s SB 249. That little gem would prohibit local government from passing ordinances that would control or stop new construction or expansion of livestock operations, factory farms and their accompanying hazards and irritations. The bill is a handy reminder that in Indiana, the General Assembly gets to make the rules for cities and counties. We sure don’t have home rule or anything remotely like it.

Those two bills are bad enough, but the real OMG measure is HB 1351, which will be heard on Tuesday, February 3rd.  The Hoosier Environmental Council calls HB 1351 “arguably the most sweeping effort ever to weaken Indiana’s ability to act in protecting our environment.”

It would void any existing state regulations — whether environmental-related or not — that are not considered to be explicitly authorized by federal or state law. It would make it illegal for regulators (whether environmental regulators or not) from enacting any new regulation unless explicitly authorized by federal or state law. This eliminates the multi-decade discretionary authority that executive agencies have long had….

Stripping away the ability of Indiana’s environmental agency (IDEM) to deal with serious issues is irresponsible and leaves Indiana vulnerable to not being able to timely act to protect its citizens when the legislature is not in session. HB 1351 could have the added effect of paralyzing IDEM in carrying out its existing responsibilities under certain EPA programs out of fear of being sued for going beyond what those federal programs require.

The idea that adopting new environmental safeguards, through respected, technically trained regulatory boards, could hurt Indiana’s economy is also misplaced because there are existing laws that already prevent state agencies, including IDEM, from acting irresponsibly in crafting new regulations. And the Indiana legislature can always repeal or modify regulations that the legislature thinks pose a threat to Indiana’s economy.

I think I remember why Harrison Ullmann used to refer to the Indiana General Assembly as “The World’s Worst Legislature.”


  1. The Great Oligarchy Plot gone wild.

    Government, of course, is about how society grants power over itself in order to function effectively. And it comes in many forms. Our contribution to the evolution of the concept was to enhance democracy. The governed choose the governing.

    One sort of natural alignment of that concept was the basis of our two party system. Democrats sort of sided with those who worked with means of production owned by others, Republicans with the owners of those means.

    That division of power was roughly balanced by the concept of statesmanship which recognized that neither “side” could exist without the other. So government was a collaborative institution.

    Over our lifetime though a new power emerged. What was born of sinister origins, brainwashing, mainstreamed into a business skill called marketing and was supercharged by the technology of big media.

    The resulting imbalance created the Goldilocks condition for the emergence of oligarchy as a threat to democracy.

    The rule of the people is being pushed aside and replaced by the rule of money. Those that can afford to invest in big media marketing stealing people’s minds to elect power brokers who reward their patrons with more power.

    This return of aristocracy might be argued as workable, after all it worked in the past, but it comes at a time in history that guarantees its colossal and traumatic failure. The Anthropocene. The times we always knew were coming but are no longer a future concept. The times when human impact on our only home planet exceeds the capacity of that place.

    Lord Acton told us that absolute power currupts absolutely. Power contains the seed if its own destruction. In this case the inherent flaw in oligarchy is that its fuel is growth. Growth in numbers and growth in consumption per person. Both of which clearly are no longer affordable. Both are existential threats to humanity at least, all life at most.

    So at the very time that we require changes that create a new direction, we have imposed on ourselves change back to an old direction. Equilibrating possessions and power. Those with the most toys rule.

    Politics now is no longer choices between arguable priorities. It is about survival.

    That might lead to the hope that all life is nothing if not persistent. Survival will prevail. I believe that it will. But that transition will be traumatic beyond imagining.

    When numbers have to overthrow entrenched power, the process always has created stunning suffering.

    Our choice between adaptation to the reality of resources more limited than our demand for more by more, and adding to that the overthrow of entrenched power dependant on such growth, will be made over the next few years.

    God help us.

  2. Front page of Indianapolis Star today, “A state office to promote marriage?” The interviews are very interesting; I would like to know if developed will this office will be available for same-sex marriages? I was married with 5 children, remained married for 17 years (it was the “right” thing to do at the time) but was still head of a single-parent household. I look for this issue to be secreted into one of the bills pushed through Congress; the current party in control will adapt this to fit their need to expand control. Perhaps the “reality of resources more limited than our demand” will be better served by only married couples; one-man/one-woman of course.

    “Our choice between adaptation to the reality of resources more limited than our demand for more by more, and adding to that the overthrow of entrenched power dependant on such growth, will be made over the next few years.”


  4. My own Hypothesis I apply to Indiana in General and Marion County is this. If Government Expenditures or Laws will benefit the People, i.e., the 99% then the Government Entity will be starved for funding, or have the Regulations de-clawed, or de-fangged. Government in Indiana is all about rewarding the 1% and their fellow travelers.

    Good example is Ersal Ozdemir’s attempt to have the tax payers pay for building him a Sucker Stadium for his Indy Eleven to the tune of tens of millions of dollars. Knowing our Legislature, Governor and Marion County Elected Officials I am sure he will get his stadium. A good strong dose of Corporate Welfare. Mean while our Public Parks here in Marion County and Public Transportation will be starved for funds.

    Last Monday I flew into Hartford, CN Monday and landed just before the Nor’ Easterner Struck. What amazed me was how quickly the City of Hartford and the state responded with snow plows. I could see from the 20th floor of my Hotel Window the plows on the City Streets and Expressways. This was a stark contrast to the pathetic efforts made last year in Marion County during our snow storm.

  5. Commenting on JoAnn’s observation about the state setting up some agency to promote marriage: even if you thought this was a good idea and could somehow work, keep in mind that everything the Pence Administration does is geared toward putting tax dollars into the hands of Republican campaign contributors. One of them has some big idea for receiving tax dollars, under the guise of supporting marriage. The comments by one of the Republican supporters in this morning’s Star shows his incredible ignorance of complexity of issues related to kids who do poorly in school and who commit crimes as adults: (paraphrasing) that taxpayers aren’t getting a good return on their money by helping single parents, because their kids only fail school and grow up to commit crime, so taxpayers are just subsidizing future criminals. Somehow, if their parents got married, this wouldn’t happen. Of course, now that the privateers are taking over public schools, and if we just push single parents to get married, this will all change–right?

  6. Natacha; I certainly hope you don’t think I was supporting the “…office to support marriage” idea, if so I need to rewrite my comments. This is the first of Pence’s post-Just IN stupid ways to spend our tax dollars – there will be more to follow, there always are. We learned nothing from Daniels administration; simply continued wasting time on political infighting and tax dollars on balls of all shapes, sizes and colors – inflated or underinflated now of primary importance. Will Pence come up with an office to inspect the Colts’ balls – and will the Pacers’ be next?

  7. The leadership at IDEM is already politicized and the top leadership seems to have a problem with any suggestion that regulations over and above those mandated by federal laws and regulations are unnecessary. These new bills will be the perfect excuse to do even less enforcement and curry more political support from coal industry, power companies and other industries which are always willing to squeeze as many dollars out of the state landscape and mineral deposits as possible and walk away from the mess they create.

  8. At this point, it should be evident to all that I am not a native Hoosier, and a few Hoosier politicians’ names and past histories are foreign to me. On the other hand, in reading this particular blog today, I do have an honest question to pose. What exactly is the difference between a factory farm and a family farm, how are the two defined legally, for tax purposes? Is the difference determined by reported farm income, the number of acres owned, the number of acres farmed including acres owned and acres leased from other landowners for cash rent, the yield per acre for the individual crops, the size of the livestock herd(s), a distinction between livestock along the lines of cattle vs hogs?

    I pose this question without rancor, but rather in my innate curious manner of hearing from other people and their take on the difference between factory farms and family farms. I’m curious because I come from a long family line of farmers, own farmland that is under lease to my late father’s sister and her sons and grandsons, White Farms, LLC. In total, they own approximately 5000 acres of farmland and additionally lease another 5000 or so acres from other landowners who have no desire to live on the land and to farm the land. Each time I read negative comments about farmers, active farmers who get dirt under their fingernails, I feel a need to put in a good word for all farmers everywhere.

    White Farms, LLC has its own webpage. http://www.whitefarmsky.com/

  9. Barbara, a CAFO that has thousands of animals is what is considered a factory farm. The main issue with them is manure. The odors are strong and finding land to knife it into can be difficult. These are corporations that require a sizable number of employees for labor.

  10. Thanks, Nancy, for the information. As a matter of checking, I learned that my farmland is in the EPA’s Region 4. Digging a bit deeper, I searched the Region 4’s data for Kentucky and found no CAFO alerts or warnings. Actually, when I think of the CAFO concept, I’m reminded of the huge chicken farms where Tyson or Perdue will rent/lease a struggling farmer’s land. In the particular county where my farmland is and where my family farmed for generations, there is not one chicken farm, not one. When a farmer resorts to renting/leasing his land to Tyson or Perdue, it’s an admission to his friends, his neighbors, and his community that he/she is a failure at farming in the traditional sense. I suspect this is the reason so many chicken farms are located on land owned by small acreage farmers without the innate ability to make a living or without the savvy to branch out into providing farming services to other landowners in the area. Selling out to Tyson, to Perdue, or to whatever cattle/hog operations exist is a blight on the individual farmer’s name and his reputation within the community. I know, I sound harsh; however, I’m speaking as a traditional farmer would speak.

    And, yes, I’m familiar with a chicken farm located in a county adjoining my home county. It’s a county without good, fertile farmland, the small-time farm owner was lazy, looking for some quick dollars, and leased his few acres to Tyson where most of the employees are immigrants, not sure of their legal status, from Mexico and points south.

  11. Barbara, of course there’s no legal difference between factory and family farms. Those aren’t legal terms.

    I’d say you cross the line between factory and family when you have employees.

    I find your comment curious:

    “When a farmer resorts to renting/leasing his land to Tyson or Perdue, it’s an admission to his friends, his neighbors, and his community that he/she is a failure at farming in the traditional sense.”

    As opposed to renting to White Farms, LLC?

  12. Small family farms also have employees – hired hands – more at sometimes like harvest and haymaking seasons and less at others. My father never farmed more than 400 acres but often had a hired hand to help him with extra helpers during busy seasons.

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