On July 9, supervisors in Todd Township, Huntingdon County, voted 2-1 to adopt a Community Bill of Rights ordinance banning industrial farming. The rights-based law prohibits farming operations when the animals are not owned locally and when most of the farm’s revenues do not stay within the Township. Farming operations that are contrary to the scenic and esthetic values that provide Todd Township’s rural character are also prohibited.
Industrial farming operations threaten drinking water supplies, allow inhumane treatment of livestock, and severely lower the quality of life for community members.
The ordinance was drafted by residents and with the assistance of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), which has supported nearly 200 communities across the U.S. that have adopted Community Rights laws to protect themselves from harmful activities such as fracking, sludging, pesticide spray, and other harms. Todd Township’s ordinance recognizes the community’s rights to local community self-government, and to clean air and water.
The ordinance also ensures that local family farm operations are encouraged and protected.
“This is actually a pro-farming ordinance,” said Stephanie Perez, a member of Todd Township Community Action, the group that spearheaded the creation of the ordinance. “We want to make sure that our farming heritage is allowed to continue in Todd Township, which means protecting our environment and our family farms from the harms that come from industrial farm operations.”
Chad Nicholson, Pennsylvania community organizer for CELDF, stated, “Todd Township residents and supervisors have worked tirelessly over the past year to protect their community from industrial-scale agriculture operations, which would harm the environment, treat animals inhumanely, and destroy the community’s quality of life. This isn’t just about farming, it’s about a community’s right to protect itself from harmful corporate activities that are permitted and legalized by our own state government.”
Pennsylvania communities part of growing movement
Todd Township and other Pennsylvania communities are advancing Community Rights as part of the broader Community Rights movement building across the U.S. Local communities and state Community Rights Networks are partnering with CELDF to advance and protect fundamental democratic and environmental rights. They are working with CELDF to establish Community Rights and the Rights of Nature in law, and prohibit fracking, factory farming, water privatization, and other industrial activities as violations of those rights.
Communities are joining together within and across states, working with CELDF to advance systemic change – recognizing our existing system of law and governance as inherently undemocratic and unsustainable. Pennsylvania joins state Community Rights Networks in Oregon, New Hampshire, and Ohio, where residents are advancing Community Rights state constitutional amendments.