October 4, 2013
PUBLIC POLICY STAFF
IFB LOBBY TEAM ATTENDS GASI CONFERENCE Your new state lobby team including director of state government relations Katrina Hall, senior policy advisor Justin Schneider and policy advisor Amy Cornell attended the Government Affairs Society of Indiana (GASI) professional development conference on October 2 and 3 in French Lick, Ind. In addition to building collaborative relationships with lobbyists of other organizations, the event included updates on regional economic development efforts in southwest Indiana from former Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman and Cook Group leader Steve Ferguson. Chris Jenzen, executive director of the Bicentennial Commission, gave an overview of celebration plans for the 2016 celebration of Indiana statehood and ways IFB members can get involved locally. Look for info coming soon. The primary purpose of GASI – an unfortunate acronym – is promotion of the highest ethical behavior among those lobbying for the various interest groups in the state. The conference regularly ends with a presentation on professional ethics. This year GASI highlighted the outstanding work of lobbyist Lesa Dietrick of Ice Miller who is the wife of Andy Dietrick, IFB’s director of public relations. Congratulations, Lesa!
PUBLIC POLICY TEAM REPRESENTS INDIANA FARM BUREAU AT AIC CONFERENCE Again this year, the public policy team was represented at the annual conference of the Association of Indiana Counties, which was held at the Belterra Resort in Switzerland County. The AIC annual meeting is where county officials get the latest information from state regulatory agencies, network with each other and where they adopt their legislative platform for the following year, which often shares common themes with IFB’s policy. To enhance IFB relationships with county officials, Katrina Hall was joined this year in manning IFB’s exhibit hall presence by Greg Slipher. Justin Schneider also attended and participated in a panel discussion entitled “Managing Your Water Resources: Indiana’s Emerging Water Wars.”
SOIL PRODUCTIVITY FACTOR STUDY NEARING COMPLETION SB 319, which passed the General Assembly this spring, delayed the implementation of proposed soil productivity factors and required the Department of Local Government Finance in cooperation with Purdue to conduct a study to determine what new soil productivity factors should be for future assessment years. Preliminary results of the study were shared with Katrina Hall of Indiana Farm Bureau on Oct. 4. The DLGF will be providing data from the study so that IFB can review and make comments regarding any proposed changes. More information will be available to IFB members in the coming weeks. The DLGF must report results of the study along with proposed soil productivity factors by Nov. 1.
NATURAL RESOURCE STUDY COMMITTEE DISCUSSES LEVEES As an extension of legislation passed during this past session of the General Assembly, the Natural Resources Study Committee heard testimony about the various bodies used to oversee levees and challenges they routinely face in maintaining levees. Farm Bureau’s Justin Schneider testified about the various structures that have developed on their own or through statutes and the court system to operate levees. The testimony included recognition that the repeal of various statutes and the lack of government oversight has led to challenges with levee upkeep that is putting land and residences at risk. Farm Bureau has committed to working through the policy development process to make recommendations for changes to the law.
REGULATORY FLEXIBILITY COMMITTEE MEETS The Regulatory Flexibility Summer Study Committee, co-chaired by Sen. James Merritt (R-Indianapolis) and Rep. Eric Koch (R-Bedford), met on Sept. 30. The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission gave annual reports on industry communications and FERC Order 1000, a federal rule that reforms the commission’s electric transmission planning and cost allocation requirements for public utility transmission providers. The Indiana Attorney General’s Office gave an update on its investigation of the TerraCom data security breach. The committee also heard testimony on the transition of Indiana’s communications infrastructure form the legacy public switched network (PSTN) to Internet protocol (IP) based networks and Indiana’s 811 laws (call before you dig).
RURAL ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND ANNEXATION STUDIED On Sept. 25, the interim study committee on economic development met to discuss regulation of residential leases by political subdivisions and trespassing for the purpose of harming a business and making video images of a business with the intent to falsely portray the operation of a business. Amy Cornell testified on property rights issues. Within her testimony Cornell highlighted the following points: Indiana farmers who conduct themselves according to the highest ethical and professional standards are nevertheless frequent targets of trespassers who seek to harm their business. People have a right to explore and share their own opinions but not at the expense of trampling the private property rights of other individuals. Farmers do not give up property rights because they are farmers. A remedy is needed, but it is not IFB’s intention to create constitutional problems or endless lawsuits. Legislation is needed to strengthen the criminal trespass code to protect farms from persons who enter private property of another person with the intent to harass, annoy or harm and commit an act with results in harassment, annoyance or harm. Farmers are in need of protection from efforts to disparage their reputations and cause economic ruin based on allegations of improper behavior.
OTHER STATE NEWS
FARM BUREAU PARTICIPATES IN WATER MEETINGS As part of the continued effort to ensure that the state creates a comprehensive water resource management plan that protects agricultural access to water, Farm Bureau staff has been meeting with other associations and representatives of several government agencies. In the past two weeks, Justin Schneider spoke about the need for a water management plan at the Association of Indiana Counties annual meeting and participated in a meeting with various representatives of local government, water utilities and consultants from around central Indiana.
FARMERS ATTEND WHITE RIVER FESTIVAL STEWARDSHIP AWARDS CEREMONY Three members of Farm Bureau’s Nutrient Management Policy Advisory Group left their combines in the field to attend an awards ceremony honoring those who have implemented plans to protect the Upper White River. Bryan Bays, Joe Russell and Mike Starkey joined several Farm Bureau staff members at the event which Farm Bureau cosponsored. The sponsorship is a key part of Farm Bureau’s effort to proactively work with farmers to reduce nutrient loss from farm fields in an effort to improve water quality. We appreciate the commitment of those three farmers to help share the story about the good things that agriculture is doing to protect the environment.
STATE WILDLIFE ACTION PLAN BEING REVISED Over the past several months, Farm Bureau has been asked to provide input into the development of revisions to the State Wildlife Action Plan. The plan is a strategy for protecting species of animals and plants that are in danger of being listed as endangered species or already are. Through the revision of the plan, Indiana can refine efforts to protect those species and hopefully reduce long-term potential for regulation on landowners for potential impacts to endangered species.
IDEM PERMIT RENEWAL REMINDERS As a member benefit, Greg Slipher, IFB livestock specialist, has developed and is sending out renewal reminder postcards to the holders of Indiana Department of Environmental Management confined feeding permits.
OCRA HOSTS INDIANA RURAL SUMMIT On Oct. 3 and 4, the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs hosted the Indiana Rural Summit in Indianapolis. The summit provided an opportunity to hear rural voices on best and most innovative practices. Roy Ballard, Purdue extension educator, ANR, Hancock County, gave a presentation on “Food Hubs – A Positive Force for Connection Farmers and Consumers with Regionally Produced Goods.” His comments gave an overview on what a food hub is (and what it is not), how a food hub can provide a means in some communities for fostering a connection between consumers and regionally produced, fresh and valued-added products. Food hubs can enhance economic growth and foster rural/urban connections and opportunities. Keynote speakers included Indiana Lt. Governor Sue Ellspermann, Caught in the Middle author Richard Longworth, and Jack Hess of the Institute for Coalition Building.
CAMPAIGN MANAGEMENT SEMINAR The campaign management seminar will be held at the Indiana Farm Bureau home office in Indianapolis on Nov. 7 and 8. Each year Indiana Farm Bureau sponsors Campaign School as part of its effort to encourage concerned citizens to become actively involved in all levels of government. This seminar has been praised as a practical, hands-on workshop that focuses on the structure and organization required for a successful political campaign. Particular emphasis is placed on defining the respective roles of the candidate, the candidate’s spouse and the campaign manager.
We have enjoyed a very high success rate for attendees, and currently well over half of Indiana’s counties have at least one graduate of our school holding public office. The fee structure is extremely reasonable, and we encourage county Farm Bureaus to send farmer-friendly candidates to the seminar. Contact Megan Ritter at firstname.lastname@example.org or 317-692-7833 for more information.
CERTIFIED CROP ADVISER (CCA) AWARD Indiana Farm Bureau has been a co-sponsor of the Certified Crop Adviser (CCA) Award since 2006. Certified crop advisers play a very important part in today’s Indiana farming operations. This award was designed to recognize a person who delivers exceptional customer service, is highly innovative, is leader in their field and contributed substantially to the exchange of ideas in the agriculture industry. The county Farm Bureau that submits the winning application receives $250, and the CCA winner will receive $1,500. In addition, the winner is eligible for the national CCA award of $1,000. The winner last year was from Ripley County. Nomination forms can be found at www.ifbstayinformed.org. Forms must be received by Nov. 22 and sent to:
Indiana Farm Bureau Inc.
P.O. Box 1290
Indianapolis, IN 46206-1290
AFFORDABLE CARE ACT (ACA) EXCHANGES OPEN FOR BUSINESS Despite the ongoing political gridlock in Washington over the budget and House Republicans’ attempts to defund and delay the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), the public marketplaces opened for business on Oct. 1. What exactly does that mean for small businesses and farmers? The ACA does not require businesses to provide health benefits to their workers, but larger employers face penalties starting if they don’t make affordable coverage available. Enforcement of those penalties will begin in 2015, a year later than originally scheduled. Larger employers with more than 50 full-time employees (“FTEs”) who do not offer coverage face a penalty of $2,000 per FTE (excluding the first 30 FTEs) if at least one FTE receives a government subsidy to buy coverage on the exchange. See a simple flowchart that illustrates the employers’ responsibilities.
While the ACA does not require small businesses under 50 employees to provide health benefits, it does require that they provide a written notice to employees about the availability of the public healthcare exchanges. In general, the Fair Labor Standards Act applies to employers that employ one or more employees who are engaged in, or produce goods for, interstate commerce. For most firms, a test of not less than $500,000 in annual dollar volume of business applies. A basic informational paper outlining the key aspects of the ACA and how they relate to small business can be found here.
THE HEAT IS ON (CONGRESS) Congress is back in session but has yet to pass key legislation important to the agriculture community. As a result, Farm Bureau has extended its campaign from the August recess and is now calling it "The Heat is On (Congress)". On Oct. 3, Indiana Farm Bureau issued a two-week action alert to encourage members to get involved and contact their members of Congress and let them know that their inaction is impacting farmers and rural communities. Take action today and contact your member of Congress to let him or her know how the political gridlock in Washington is impacting you and your farm, and that agriculture needs a farm bill, a workable visa program and immigration reform, fair tax reform, and better waterways infrastructure. More information is available at www.ifbstayinformed.org.
FARM BILL EXPIRES AMID GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN The government shutdown and the expiration of the farm bill has created a double whammy of uncertainty for the economy and for the 16 million Americans who work in this country because of agriculture. With expiration, the Agriculture Department lost authority to run agricultural export, global food aid, livestock disaster relief and some conservation programs. Crop subsidies, crop insurance and food stamps, the big-ticket programs, are permanently authorized and remain in business.
Expiring immediately are key conservation programs including the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). Foreign aid programs affected by the farm bill’s expiration include the Food for Peace Program, the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program, and the Emerging Markets Program (EMP). Particularly impactful for the corn and soybean industry will be the expiration of funding for the Market Access Program (MAP) and the Foreign Market Development Program (also known as the Cooperator Program). Other programs put on hold immediately due to the expiration of the farm bill include industry-advancing research and energy programs. Should time pass without a new farm bill or extension, an additional pressing deadline comes on Jan. 1 when a 1949 farm law requires that subsidy prices begin to increase, starting with dairy payments. That could double the prices consumers pay for milk to $7 a gallon. Wheat and other commodities would be affected later in 2014.
In terms of the government shutdown impact on USDA see the Agency Contingency Plans outlining the impacted agencies and their plans.