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Dispatch-hdrstat
January 10, 2014
Volume 14
Issue 2

STATE NEWS

NOTE FROM KATRINA HALL, DIRECTOR OF STATE GOVERNMENT RELATIONS
FARMERS VOICES NEEDED AT THE STATEHOUSE
   As this session of the General Assembly begins, the agriculture community faces another opportunity to make progress for the farmers of today and of the future. The opportunity to do something good is what farming is all about, but in order to thrive, we need a beneficial policy environment. This year, Indiana Farm Bureau will be pursuing important measures to protect farming operations from unjustified tax increases, from trespassers and from measures that would limit those opportunities due to annexation or water supply restrictions. All the farmers I know would do about anything to protect their opportunity to be productive, so please join our faithful members who stand up for all farmers year after year and bring some other farmers along. With anti-agriculture activists more vocal than ever, it will take many voices and all our efforts. Hoping to see you at the Statehouse!

LEGISLATIVE KICKOFF A SUCCESS IN SPITE OF WEATHER   The annual Indiana Farm Bureau Legislative Kickoff took place as scheduled with great success in spite of severe weather and terrible road conditions. While members from many areas of the state could not make it, legislators came to the networking lunch in force to support Indiana Farm Bureau and agriculture. Many members of state government attended the luncheon from the governor’s office, the lieutenant governor’s office and the Indiana State Department of Agriculture. Prior to lunch, Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann introduced Ted McKinney, the new director of the Indiana State Department of Agriculture, who gave an overview of his vision for the ISDA – one being a close working relationship with Indiana Farm Bureau. 

A highlight of the legislative luncheon was honoring two members of the House of Representatives and two members of the Senate as 2013 Legislators of the Year. They were selected for their exemplary legislative leadership for members of Indiana Farm Bureau. Rep. Tim Brown was recognized for his leadership of Ways & Means and authoring what many say was one of the best state budgets ever. It included many measures benefitting farmers, but most particularly the complete and permanent repeal of the Indiana inheritance tax.  Rep. Ed Soliday was honored for his tireless work on the road funding issue. After several years, he raised awareness of the issue so substantial amounts of new funding are available to local governments and the Indiana Department of Transportation. Sen. Jean Leising is a consistent fighter for Indiana agriculture, and last session authored SB 319 that once again delayed the unjustified tax increase from proposed changes to the soil productivity factors. Sen. Randy Head was honored for his leadership as chair of the Senate Local Government Committee and authoring legislation that provided much needed protections for rural citizens who are part of a proposed government merger.

STATEHOUSE VISITS   County Farm Bureaus are encouraged to plan a member lobbying trip to the Statehouse again this year. Statehouse visits are an important part of building relationships with legislators and offer another opportunity to stress IFB policy priorities. County presidents, state legislative chairs or regional managers will schedule the visits online.

Visits should be scheduled between Jan. 13 and Feb. 20. Recommended days are Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays due to Wednesdays being committee days which may cause problems or delays in meeting with your legislators.

Zachary Schmidt, a recent Valparaiso Law School grad, will be assisting with member visits. You can contact Zachary with any questions or concerns regarding the Statehouse visits at 317-692-7855 or zschmidt@infarmbureau.org.

STATE SENATE AND HOUSE RELEASE THEIR OWN PERSONAL PROPERTY TAX PROPOSALS   As a part Gov. Pence’s 2014 roadmap, he identified eliminating personal property tax as a legislative goal. The governor stated that he was laying out the goal and letting lawmakers figure out the best way to make progress on this goal. 

On Wednesday, Sens. Long, Hershman and Kenley announced the Senate GOP’s personal property and income tax plan. Their plan includes reducing Indiana’s corporate income tax rate to 4.9 percent by Jul. 1, 2019; exempting small businesses from personal property tax liability if they have less than $25,000 of personal property in a county which is projected to exempt up to 71 percent of business personal property tax filers; and finally, revising and eliminating certain tax credits which would be funded by reducing the state R&D tax credit by 50 percent. The Senate GOP plan also creates an 11-member blue ribbon commission to study the impact of the business personal property tax on Indiana’s economic competitiveness.

The House GOP personal property tax plan was also announced by Speaker Bosma on Wednesday. It includes, at a county’s option, the ability to exempt newly-acquired personal property (i.e., each county would have the option to exempt personal property that is “new” to Indiana – not just “new” to the county). If a county exercises the option to exempt new personal property, the ordinance must be adopted by a county option income tax (COIT) council, which includes representatives from the county and its cities/towns. Local option income tax (LOIT) would serve as the mechanism for local governments to collect any replacement revenue, if necessary. The proposal excludes utility personal property; in other words, utilities would continue to pay personal property tax. In 2013, utilities paid $252.4 million in personal property taxes.

These and other personal property proposals will be monitored by Indiana Farm Bureau with the goal of making sure agriculture is a winner in any tax relief legislation.

SENATE COMMITTEE HEARS SB 101   The Senate Corrections & Criminal Law committee chaired by Sen. Mike Young (R-Indianapolis) heard SB 101 (enhanced ag trespass) on Jan. 7. Author Sen. Holdman (R-Markle) offered an amendment that eliminated contested notice language and created a new crime of agricultural mischief based on the criminal mischief statute. Josh Trenary, executive director of Indiana Pork, testified on behalf of agricultural groups, including Indiana Farm Bureau. The agriculture industry groups were united in their support of SB 101 as amended. The committee will have another hearing next week to consider additional amendments and vote on the bill.

Sen. Holdman states, “The purpose of this legislation is to address the legitimate concerns of farmers who are wrongfully targeted by individuals seeking to harm their business. Agriculture is an essential economic development tool, and it’s important that we defend it.

“Law enforcement officers and a number of local and state agencies are currently tasked with responding to complaints and abuse in agricultural operations, and that responsibility should remain with them. However, I am currently working to provide a safe harbor from penalty to concerned individuals who act in good faith and discover illegal and non-compliance issues.

SB101 is by no means in its final form. I’m continuing to gather input from other legislators and the public in order to make this legislation the best it can be."

Talking points for SB101:

  • Farms and their economic viability are often harmed by trespassers. A remedy is needed to protect the private property rights of Indiana farmers.
  • Goal is to strengthen the criminal trespass code to protect farms from persons who enter private property of another person and who commit an act which results in financial harm.
  • Remove the posting requirement for agricultural operations.
  • Farmers should be afforded the same trespass protections available to homeowners – i.e., not be obligated to post a sign.
  • Current Indiana law requires verbal or written denial of entry or posting.
  • Strengthening trespass has been a goal of Indiana farmers for many years.
  • Farmers should not be expected to give up their property rights to those who would trespass.
  • SB 101 would take away the posting burden, so entering a property without consent would be trespass.
  • Trespass plus an intentional act that causes financial loss would result in heightened offenses.
  • The provisions of SB 101 provide a greater deterrent effect for those who intend harm to the property owner or his business.
  • SB 101 does not specifically prohibit any act.
  • First Amendment rights do NOT include a right to trespass.

EMINENT DOMAIN FOR RECREATION DEBATED   The Senate committee on civil law heard testimony for SB 67 (Sen. Greg Walker, R-Columbus), which would prohibit the use of eminent domain for recreational purposes. Farm Bureau’s Justin Schneider was the sole supporter of the bill and noted that trail and park development would likely expand to ag land further from cities and towns in the future and now would be an appropriate time to set clear limits on the use of eminent domain.

RESTRICTIONS ON USES OF UNMANNED AERIAL VEHICLES DISCUSSED   The House Committee on Courts & Criminal Code discussed what requirements should exist for law enforcement to be able to use unmanned aerial vehicles, commonly referred to as “drones.” In offering HB 1009, Rep. Eric Koch (R-Bedford) noted that it is important to have a discussion about the policy ramifications of law enforcement using this equipment. Farm Bureau will continue to see how this bill develops both with respect to privacy concerns and also to ensure that no undue restrictions are placed upon the potential beneficial uses for agriculture.
 
OTHER STATE NEWS

HOLLI SULLIVAN ELECTED TO HOUSE DISTRICT 78   A Republican Party caucus elected a new representative to serve District 78. Holli Sullivan began work immediately after her swearing in ceremony. Sullivan, an industrial engineer who owns Onward Consulting LLC, told precinct committee members before the vote that she would not only act as a representative to reflect Republican values, but that she would campaign fiercely for re-election in November. Sullivan replaces Suzanne Crouch, who was sworn in as state auditor on Jan. 2.

LANDSKE WILL NOT SEEK RE-ELECTION TO SENATE DISTRICT 6 IN 2014   Sen. Sue Landske (R-Cedar Lake) will not seek re-election after announcing in November that she has been diagnosed with lung cancer. “This was a very difficult decision for me to make. The Indiana Senate has been a part of my life for a long time,” Landske said. “However, I know that I must do what is best for my health and best for the Hoosiers that I serve in northwest Indiana.”

Landske was first elected to the Indiana Senate in 1984, serves as the Assistant President Pro Tempore, and is chair of the Senate Elections Committee.

Senate President Pro Tem David Long (R-Fort Wayne) praised Landske for her tireless dedication to the Indiana Senate. “Sue Landske has been a great leader for the people of northwest Indiana for more than 30 years,” Long said. “She has always been a passionate, hardworking servant for her constituents and a steady, influential voice with her Senate colleagues. We will miss her greatly.”

SAVE THE DATE: INDIANA HORTICULTURAL CONGRESS – JAN. 21-23, 2014   The three-day congress and trade show will once again be held at the Wyndham Indianapolis West, 2544 Executive Dr., Indianapolis, IN 46241.

The Indiana Horticultural Congress is an educational meeting designed to meet the needs of fruit, vegetable, wine, organics and specialty crop growers and marketers in Indiana and surrounding states. All interested individuals are invited to attend. “Agritourism is all about bringing the families to the farm for enjoyment, education and the farm experience, but how do we know what the visitor wants. And once we understand that (if we can) how do we serve that need in a way that provides satisfaction to the extent not only that they return but that they will favorably share the experience with their friends, family and neighbors?” – Roy Ballard, Hancock County Extension educator.

SAVE THE DATE: CAMPAIGN MANAGEMENT SEMINAR   Each year, Indiana Farm Bureau sponsors a campaign seminar (or “school”) as part of our continuing efforts to encourage concerned citizens to become actively involved in government at all levels. 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. This school is priced economically to ensure that it is affordable to candidates for all levels of public all levels of public office, even those with limited campaign treasuries. The next school will be held Feb. 3 and 4 in Assembly Halls A and B at the IFB home office. See the Campaign Management Seminar brochure to review more details.

FEDERAL NEWS

SENATORS DEMAND OSHA ADDRESS RECENT UNLAWFUL REGULATORY ACTIONS   More than 40 Republican and Democratic senators recently wrote a letter to U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Thomas Perez urging him to put a stop to his agency’s unlawful regulation of family farms. The cause of the latest action resulted from an OSHA memo issued in 2011 stating that many activities – including drying and fumigating grain – are subject to all OSHA requirements, effectively expanded the agency’s regulatory scope to nearly every farm in the country, and from a new wave of complaints from farmers in several states. However, for nearly four decades, Congress has included specific language in appropriations bills prohibiting OSHA from using appropriated funds to apply requirements under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1976 to farming operations with 10 or fewer employees.

“There are many farms that have grain dryers on-farm to address wet harvest conditions or fumigate grain to prevent pests from ruining a crop prior to marketing. These are basic, common and responsible farming activities that OSHA has arbitrarily decided are non-exempt,” the senators wrote.   

The agency has also taken to viewing a farm’s grain bin operation as separate from its farming operation, creating a false distinction that the agency thinks allows it to circumvent the congressional prohibition on regulating farms.   

The senators made it clear that this is not a matter of farmers wanting to take safety shortcuts, but an issue of a regulatory entity overstepping the very clear boundaries Congress established.    

The senators asked OSHA to take three steps by Feb. 1 to address their concerns.

  1. OSHA should stop all actions based on its incorrect interpretation of the law and the exemption. 
  2. The agency must issue a guidance correcting this misinterpretation. The senators suggested OSHA consult with USDA and organizations representing farmers for help with the guidance.
  3. The senators asked for a list and description of regulatory actions taken against farms with incorrectly categorized non-farming activities and 10 or fewer employees since the June 2011 memo.  “Given the nearly four decades of congressional prohibition of OSHA enforcement against farms, this should be a simple request to fulfill,” they wrote.

Sen. Dan Coats was a signatory to the letter to OSHA, while Sen. Joe Donnelly’s office was investigating the issue further at the time of publication of this story.

FOOD SAFETY MODERNIZATION ACT   In January 2013, the FDA released proposed rules under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) that was signed into law January 2011. There are now a total of five FDA proposed rules related to FSMA. The two proposed rules affecting producers are: “Standards for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption” and “Current Good Manufacturing Practice and Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls for Human Food.” The comment period for these two proposed rules ended Nov. 22 after several extensions. AFBF provided extensive comments on both rules. 

FDA held over 150 meetings nationwide and FDA officials toured a significant number of farms and packing houses as well as receiving many comments. 

On Dec. 19, FDA Deputy Commissioner Michael Taylor released a statement stating that significant changes are needed to the two proposed rules affecting producers. Due to the number of comments and meetings, FDA will be changing several portions of the proposed rules and plans to publish the revised rule for comment during summer 2014. If you have any questions regarding FSMA, contact Bob White at 317-692-7823 or bwhite@infarmbureau.org.

OTHER FEDERAL NEWS

TIME WINDING DOWN TO SUBMIT COMMENTS TO EPA ON PROPOSED RFS CHANGES   The deadline to submit public comments to the EPA in reference to its proposed cuts to the RFS is Jan. 28. The EPA published its revised 2014 Renewable Fuel Standard requirements in the Federal Register on Nov. 29, kicking off the official 60-day public comment period. The published rule can be found in its entirety by clicking here.

The EPA proposal would cut nearly 3 billion gallons of biofuel that was originally mandated to be blended into the fuel supply. The proposed rule calls for a total of 15.21 billion gallons of biofuel to be blended into the motor fuel supply in 2014, 16 percent lower than the 18.15 billion gallons under the renewable fuels law passed in 2007. Conventional biofuel will be reduced to 13 billion gallons per year from 14.4 billion, a decrease that represents nearly the entire amount of ethanol currently produced in Indiana. The proposal also reduces cellulosic biofuels to 17 million from 1.75 billion.

Congress enacted the Renewable Fuel Standard in 2005 and expanded it in 2007, setting required production goals for various biofuels to stimulate production of alternative fuels and reduce U.S. dependency on foreign oil. The EPA had been considering revising its 2014 mandate in part because declining demand for gasoline has led to a corn ethanol "blend wall," the point at which the market cannot consume as much ethanol as the EPA requires to be produced. Causes of declining demand for gasoline are linked to increased fuel economy in our nation’s fleet and an economy stuck in a prolonged slump.

The proposed changes to the RFS will have significant impacts on farmers and rural communities through reduced corn prices and farm incomes, market opportunity and access, and job losses. Additionally, this decision will thwart progress toward energy independence, have negative consequences on air quality, and stifle the development of new innovations.

Farm Bureau members are urged to provide comments to the EPA during the 60-day public comment period indicating how critical the RFS has been to their businesses and communities and how the proposed changes will harm them. Take action now and submit your comments.

 


 

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