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Click Public Policy Dispatch - Volume 14, Issue 16 to see as a webpage.

Dispatch-hdrstat
May 16, 2014
Volume 14
Issue 16

ACTION NEEDED

ANNEXATION NEAR YOU? KEEP INDIANA FARM BUREAU IN THE LOOP   Indiana Farm Bureau staff has focused efforts to help members deal with the rash of annexation proposals occurring across the state. We need to hear from you.

Farmers within a few miles of an annexation may think they will not be affected, but the “two-mile fringe” of even very small towns pushes out proportionately when an annexation occurs. Towns are being advised to look far beyond their borders to their area of urban influence, which hardly seems appropriate for rural Indiana. No one in rural Indiana thinks they can live without the goods and professional services that are generally congregated within a municipality, but it’s time to remember that the people and economic activity inside the town are supported by the rural areas already, through the normal course of commerce.
 
Even though legislative efforts to curb involuntary annexation failed by a couple of votes in the Senate in March, it is important for farmers across the state to pay attention to any chatter or official notice about a proposed annexation in their area. Please email Katrina Hall with any details about annexations occurring near you. There is a lot of work to do with legislators this summer. Read more

EPA PROPOSES EXPANSION OF FEDERAL JURISDICTION OVER WATER   On March 25, 2014, the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released a proposed rule that would assert CWA jurisdiction over nearly all areas with any hydrologic connection to downstream navigable waters, including man-made conveyances such as ditches. This rule, if implemented, would directly contradict prior U.S. Supreme Court decisions, which imposed limits on the extent of federal CWA authority, and it would bypass Congress and supersede its original intent of the law. The rule is flawed in a number of ways. The most problematic of these flaws concerns the significant expansion of areas defined as “waters of the U.S.” by effectively removing the word navigable from the definition of the CWA and creating ambiguity in interpretation.

AFBF has created a webpage for information on the rule. Indiana Farm Bureau is also developing our own information for our website and will be submitting comments on behalf of many Indiana agriculture organizations. We also need your help in collecting photos to show the expansive reach of the proposed rule. Please send your before-and-after photos of ditches and swales, ponding in driveways, water flowing in gullies on hillsides (preferably with a ditch or creek in the background) and flooded lawns to askus@infb.org, Kyle Cline or Justin Schneider. We will use the pictures to show that normally dry, productive farmland and residential areas are subject to temporary flooding. Your identifying information will not be used with the pictures. 

STATE NEWS

FARMERS’ TAX STORIES MATTER   It’s May in Indiana, and farmers are planting and making that trip to the county courthouse to pay their property taxes on all the land, buildings and equipment that their business cannot operate without. Farming families know all too well about the “big check” they must write in May and November.  

It’s time to tell others just how big those checks are. Before you file away those tax bills, make a note of the total real and total personal property tax you pay. How many acres does that cover? Do you know how much property tax your landlords pay? You are paying a part of those.

Legislators need to hear your concerns about reliance on property tax and how your bills are increasing when the tax bills of your residential and business neighbors are not increasing as much. Legislators must be able to see that property taxes are a problem for a farm. To convincingly shape that story for legislators, Indiana Farm Bureau members must be able to relate how rapidly escalating property taxes impact their family and their farming operation.
  
So get out that notepad, the old fashioned pocket style or electronic device, and jot down just how much property taxes are a big chunk off your bottom-line. IFB will ask you to tell your stories very soon.

IACIR HEARS TESTIMONY ON ANNEXATION, STORIES STILL NEEDED   On April 28, the Indiana Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations, chaired by Sen. Randy Head (R-Logansport), heard testimony on annexation. Katrina Hall testified on behalf of Indiana Farm Bureau, relating how landowners have no real chance of fighting off an involuntary annexation proposal. The Association of Indiana Counties testified about how cities and towns benefit financially from annexation while there are negative financial ramifications on county government and school corporations. Rep. Bob Cherry (R-Greenfield), who sponsored annexation legislation last session, and attorney Steve Buschmann provided their experience and expertise. There will be more opportunities to tell the annexation story to legislators later this summer. Annexation was the only topic assigned by the Legislative Council to the Interim Study Commission on Government for review this summer/fall. 

Your IFB staff still needs to hear about proposed annexations. In just the last month, we have heard from members in the path of annexations by Madison, Lakeville, Huntington, Martinsville, Fortville, Lapel, Ingalls, Anderson, Elwood, Alexandria, Pendleton and Spiceland.

Even though legislative efforts to curb involuntary annexation failed by a couple of votes in the Senate in March, it is important for farmers across the state to pay attention to any chatter or official notice about a proposed annexation in their area. Please email Katrina Hall with any details about annexations occurring near you. 

STUDY COMMITTEE TOPICS ASSIGNED   The Legislative Council met on May 14 to assign topics for study during the 2014 interim. The council is composed of twelve voting members, six appointed from the Senate by the chairman of the council and six appointed from the House by the vice chairman of the council. Chaired by House Speaker Brian C. Bosma (R-Indianapolis), the council assigned specific topics to the new configuration of interim committees that were reorganized in Senate Enrolled Act 80.
  
Sen. David Long (R-Fort Wayne) authored and Bosma sponsored SEA 80, which streamlined the interim committee process. The new structure reduces government bureaucracy by allowing study committees to operate more efficiently and increasing member participation.
  
"Every year the Legislative Council determines which issues the General Assembly should study further prior to making additional changes to our state's policies. It's prudent to take a thoughtful approach and further study certain issues in order to make better informed decisions on legislation for next session," said Bosma.

The interim study committees lay the groundwork for 2015 legislative proposals. Topics of interest to Farm Bureau members include property taxes, annexation, water resources and captive deer.

FEDERAL NEWS

CONGRESS MOVES CLOSER ON SECTION 179 SMALL BUSINESS EXPENSING LEGISLATION   On April 29, the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee passed H.R. 4457, which would permanently extend the Section 179 small business expensing limitations that expired at the end of last year. Last year, the maximum Section 179 deduction was set at $500,000 of purchased property reduced dollar for dollar when investments exceeded $2 million. The maximum deduction shrank to $25,000 for 2014 upon expiration.

Earlier this month, the Senate Finance Committee approved the Expiring Provisions Improvement Reform and Efficiency (EXPIRE) Act. The bill extends, for two years, all but two of the tax provisions that expired at the end of last year. All of the expiring provisions supported by Farm Bureau were included in the two year extension, including Section 179, bonus depreciation and biodiesel tax credits, among others.

Both bills are expected to reach the floor in both chambers sometime in May. Members are urged to contact their representatives to express their support for the Farm Bureau-supported provisions during committee consideration of the tax extenders and the ongoing debate of tax reform. 

FOOD SAFETY MODERNIZATION ACT   FDA recently released the “Guiding Principles for Implementation of Produce Safety Standards.”

The proposed rule for produce safety standards was pulled last December, and the FDA stated that the revised proposed rule would be reissued sometime late summer of 2014. These principles will be used in the revision.

From the FDA website: Effective implementation and oversight of produce safety, standards poses distinct challenges for FDA due to the scale and diversity of the produce sector, the large number of produce farms and their lack of familiarity with FDA regulatory oversight. Moreover, Congress envisioned a different role for FDA on produce farms compared to food facilities, as reflected in the lack of an inspection frequency mandate in FSMA for farms, the directive to coordinate education and enforcement activities with state and local officials and the mandate to USDA to provide technical assistance grants to support implementation, especially for entities such as small growers.

Another reality shaping FDA’s approach to produce safety is that there is no reasonable expectation FDA will have the resources to make routine on-farm inspection a major source of accountability for compliance with produce safety standards.

For this reason, FDA’s implementation of produce safety standards will entail a broad, collaborative effort to foster awareness and compliance through guidance, education and technical assistance, coupled with accountability for compliance from multiple public and private sources, including FDA and partner agencies, USDA audits, marketing agreements and private audits required by commercial purchasers.

In keeping with this broad vision for FSMA implementation, FDA will focus its efforts on:

  • Deploying a cadre of produce safety experts in headquarters and the field with the depth and breadth of capacity to develop the guidance needed to support implementation and provide technical support to government and industry parties working to foster compliance.
  • Actively supporting education and technical assistance for growers, primarily through collaboration with other public and private parties.
  • Supporting public and private parties involved in audits and other accountability functions with technical assistance and other collaborative support.
  • Conducting targeted on-farm surveys and inspections to understand current practices and identify gaps in compliance.
  • Taking administrative compliance and enforcement action when needed to correct problems that put consumers at risk.
  • Responding to produce outbreaks effectively to lessen impact on public health.
  • Conducting in-depth environmental assessments where appropriate to identify root causes of outbreaks associated with produce and inform future prevention efforts.

GRASSROOTS SUPPORT NEEDED FOR GMO LABELING BILL   In April, Reps. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.), G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Jim Matheson (D-Utah) and Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) introduced H.R. 4432, the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act. H.R. 4432 would create a national labeling program while, affirming the Food and Drug Administration’s role as the nation’s food safety authority. The bill would:

  • Create a uniform, national, voluntary system governing the premarket review and labeling of genetically engineered foods.
  • Require the FDA to conduct a safety review of all new plant varieties used for genetically engineered food before those foods are introduced into commerce.
  • Uphold FDA’s authority to specify special labeling if it believes it is necessary to protect health and safety, specifically when a biotech food differs materially from the same product made with conventionally grown ingredients.
  • Create a new legal framework, subject to FDA oversight, governing the use of label claims regarding either the absence of, or use of, genetically engineered food or food ingredients.
  • Direct FDA to develop a Federal definition for “natural” claims on product labels.
  • Preserve FDA’s 100-year management of food labeling and prevent disruptive regulatory patchwork.

Indiana Farm Bureau members are encouraged to take action and send a letter to their congressman expressing support of H.R. 4432 and asking for their co-sponsorship of the bill.

EPA SEEKS COMMENT ON PROPOSED DECISION TO REGISTER DOW ENLIST DUO HERBICIDE   The Environmental Protection Agency is making available for a 30-day public comment period a proposed regulatory decision to register Dow AgroScience's Enlist Duo herbicide, containing glyphosate and the choline salt of 2,4-D, for use in controlling weeds in corn and soybeans genetically engineered (GE) to tolerate 2,4-D. Data from late last year showed that more than 86 percent of corn, soybean and cotton growers in the South and 61 percent in the Midwest reported “hard to control” weeds on their farms, according to Dow. The proposal imposes requirements on Dow to include monitoring and reporting to EPA, and would allow EPA to add more restrictions on the use of the pesticide if resistance develops.

“In its review, the EPA acknowledged the significant scientific advancements Dow AgroSciences has achieved with Enlist Duo herbicide” said Damon Palmer, U.S. commercial leader for Enlist, Dow AgroSciences. “Enlist Duo herbicide will help solve the weed control challenges growers are facing, and will be another option to further reduce the potential for development of herbicide-resistant weeds.” The draft label for Enlist Duo includes proposed registration for Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin, a Dow announcement said today. The company is working with EPA to expand the list of states.

EPA PROPOSES AGRICULTURAL WORKER PROTECTION STANDARD REVISIONS   EPA's Agricultural Worker Protection Standard (WPS) is a regulation aimed at reducing the risk of pesticide poisonings and injuries among agricultural workers and pesticide handlers. The proposed rule extensively revises the existing WPS in several areas, including training, notification, hazard communication, minimum age and personal protective equipment. AFBF and other organizations had requested a 90-day extension of the comment deadline.  In response, the EPA published a notice extending the comment period 60 days on May 14.  The new deadline for submitting comments is August 18.

The proposed changes in the rule are extensive and will impact many of our members directly. Examples of such proposals include:

  • Altering the family farm exemption.
  • Increasing legal obligation related to training of workers, content of training materials and timing of training.
  • Imposing stricter requirements related to personal protective equipment and availability of decontamination supplies.
  • Imposing buffer zones related to application of pesticides that could reduce available acreage for crop production.

Members are encouraged to submit comments on the proposed WPS rule to the EPA by the deadline.  

For more information please contact Amy Cornell or Kyle Cline.





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