New Indiana Bill Challenges Farm-to-Fork Concept

When most Hoosiers or Americans think of Indiana, they picture small towns and family farms.  In fact, Indiana has over 60,000 farms, including family farms spanning 15-million acres across the state, ranging in cultivation from poultry, cattle, soybeans, produce, etc.[1] The Farm-to-fork movement is growing because many consumers want food produced close to home, by farmers they know and trust; yet, Hoosiers spend more than $16 billion per year buying food, but less than 10% of that is sourced from within Indiana. Id.  That is why House Bill 1267 comes as a shock to so many Hoosiers, including one family farm in particular, the Hawkins.

In 2014 legislation was passed helping family farms who want to sell their poultry to consumers and restaurants by not requiring them to follow the same heavily regulated inspections as required for the industrial-scale slaughterhouses. This exception immensely helped farmers like the Hawkins in increasing their business sales to consumers via on the farm sales, at farmer markets, and to local restaurants.[2] The exception was that for mid-size poultry producers, approximately 20,000 birds or less, can sell their poultry without undergoing ante-mortem and postmortem inspections. Id.

Hawkins farm was doing great under this exception until the Indiana State Department of Health issued a cease and desist letter in September of 2015 to Hawkins and to a restaurant that he had sold his poultry to. Id.  Uniquely though, in November the Indiana Attorney General’s Office stepped in and “issued a report stating that under current federal and state law, the Hawkins Family Farm could resume the sale of its inspection-exempt poultry.” Id.  At this time, it should be noted and emphasized that the family farms that do receive this inspection exemption must still comply with over two facility inspections annually, water-testing twice a year, labeling requirements, and record keeping requirements overseen by the state.[3]

Due to the Indiana Attorney General’s Office statement, certain legislators have authored bills this legislative session aiming at prohibiting the exception.[4]  Both the Indiana House and Senate have introduced legislation (House Bill 1267 and Senate Bill 71), seeking to impose the same inspections that were removed under the guise of food safety and concerns for consumers.

Yet, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control pointed out that “‘inspected poultry’ was the source of the most deaths in cases of foodborne [sic] illness between 1998-2008.”[5]  In fact, the CDC points out that the longer the food production chain, the higher probability for a contamination along it.[6]  For example, the CDC recently issued a recall due to Salmonella for over 1.7 million pounds of “raw, frozen, stuffed and breaded chicken” produced by Barber Foods, which is an industrial size poultry producer.[7]  Therefore, contrary to what the state legislators claim as reducing risk, the relatively short production chain used in farms like the Hawkins, actually decreases the probability for a contamination to occur.

Senate Bill 71 never made it out of the Senate’s Committee on Commerce & Technology; however, House Bill 1267 was voted out of the House Committee on Agriculture and Rural development on January 28, 2016 on a 6-3 vote.[8]  On February 2, 2016, House Bill 1267 barely made it out of the House with a floor vote of 54-42.  Id. On February 8, 2016, it was referred to the Senate’s Committee on Commerce and Technology.  Id. The Committee on Commerce and Technology will next hold hearings on House Bill 1267, which are open to the public to view and participate in.  To find out who your state legislators are, and to contact them either in regards to House Bill 1267 or any other state issue, you can do so here.

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[1] “What Is Indiana Grown?” Indiana Grown. N.p., 2015. Web. 4 Feb. 2016. <>.

[2] Klemann, Mackenzi. “99-acre Wabash County Farm at Center of Indiana Food Safety Debate.” Indiana Economic Digest 27 Jan. 2016: n. pag. Print.

[3] “Small-farm Threat: Big Ag Bill Betrays State’s Agricultural Heritage.” Journal Gazette [Fort Wayne] 2 Feb. 2016: n. pag. Print.

[4] See Klemann, supra note 2.

[5] See Journal Gazette, supra note 3.

[6] “The Food Production Chain – How Food Gets Contaminated.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 24 Mar. 2015. Web. 11 Feb. 2016. <>.

[7] “Multistate Outbreak of Drug-Resistant Salmonella Enteritidis Infections Linked to Raw, Frozen, Stuffed Chicken Entrees Produced by Barber Foods (Final Update).” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 16 Oct. 2015. Web. 11 Feb. 2016. <>.

[8] “Actions for House Bill 1267.” Indiana General Assembly 2016 Session.  <>