When the Democrats at one point mentioned passing a state amendment to the Indiana Constitution to allow statewide referendums by the voters on thorny topics, it set off alarm bells in some segments of agriculture. Even it was just a trial balloon or a desperate effort in a thorny fight over the Right to Work Law, the fact that someone mentioned it as a possibility was downright frightening, especially to those in animal agriculture.
Indiana is one of the states that doesn't allow referendums, also called propositions in some states, to be placed on the ballot at the state level. Local referendums on tax-related matters tied to funding for new projects is allowed.
What would happen if Indiana ever passed such an amendment? It would open a can of worms, and one of the first to crawl out of the can would be the Humane Society of the Unites States and others who literally want to shut down production livestock agriculture as we know it in Indiana. Being able to go directly to the public allows them to appeal to emotions of voters with slick ads, often black and white, of so-called abused animals. Even with facts and science on agriculture's side, it's tough to fight a financially well-armed opponent when the debate goes big-time- on TV, radio and newspapers.
It would be an unintended consequence, but a particularly tough one to swallow. If the animal welfare groups want to attack Indiana agriculture now, they have to do it through the legislature. The legislative process gives elected representatives of the people, sent to Indianapolis to deal with tough issues, time to think through the consequences of their actions.Look for more on this topic in the March issue of Indiana Prairie Farmer magazine.