January 17, 2014
COUNTY FARM BUREAU VISITS TO THE STATEHOUSE Visits to the Statehouse by Farm Bureau members are an important component to successful efforts by the Farm Bureau staff. If your county has not scheduled a visit, we ask you to do so soon. If you have any questions about scheduling your county’s visit, please contact Zach Schmidt at 317-692-7855 or email@example.com.
The following counties have scheduled visits to the Statehouse next week.
Tuesday, Jan. 21 - Delaware, Howard and Jasper.
Thanks to Dearborn County for a very successful visit on Jan. 15.
STATE OF THE STATE Gov. Mike Pence delivered an upbeat State of the State address on Tuesday Jan. 14. The governor recapped his first term and the progress made toward creating jobs, and then outlined various goals for job expansion in 2014. He focused on job creation through a low tax environment and noted that the business personal property tax is an impediment to business development because it makes investment in equipment and technology more expensive. Gov. Pence indicated that he would like to see the personal property tax at a level that encourages business growth without hurting local governments. He continued with tax policy stating that “Because Indiana is agriculture, we need a permanent fix to the soil productivity factor.” Finally, the governor focused on education stating his belief that setting high standards of achievement in our schools “ensures Indiana’s long term success.” The governor is proposing a Pre-K voucher system that would allow children of low income families to attend a quality private or public early-education program. The governor has a full agenda, but his focus is centered on the growth of Indiana through jobs, tax incentives and education.
BUSINESS PERSONAL PROPERTY TAX MOVES EARLY The House Ways & Means Committee heard the first proposal of the session dealing with personal property tax. HB 1001, authored jointly by Rep. Eric Turner (R-Cicero), Rep. Todd Huston (R-Fishers) and Rep. Steve Braun (R-Jasper), was presented on Tuesday. Katrina Hall testified in support of HB 1001, which allows exemption of new personal property from taxes if the local County Income Tax Council approves the measure. This would create a system of automatic abatement for all new business equipment. The measure would apply to all businesses, not just manufacturers as the current system of tax abatement applies. No application would be required. Hall stated that HB 1001 would allow citizens to work with local officials to create a competitive economic environment. These same decisions are now made one at a time by county councils and city councils, but the benefits are not available to farmers who have some of the highest equipment investment per worker. County and city government officials testified against the measure citing revenue loss. The bill was held for further consideration.
SOIL PRODUCTIVITY FACTOR BILL PRIORITIZED IN THE SENATE SB 111, authored by Sen. Jean Leising (R-Oldenburg), was heard in the Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday. SB 111 proposes another one year delay of the soil productivity factors that were released by the Department of Local Government Finance back in Feb., 2012. SB 319, the first bill to pass both chambers in the 2013 session, included a delay and required a study to determine what new factors should be. The Purdue School of Agronomy is working hard with the DLGF to complete the study, but have realized the data from NRCS includes “management.” Indiana’s SPF’s were based on average management so adjustments are in order, but need to be refined. This is the third session where a delay is needed to ensure that farmers do not see unjustified tax increases. Hall testified in favor of SB 111 expressing thanks to committee Chair Luke Kenley (R-Noblesville) for hearing and moving the bill quickly and to the General Assembly for their support and patience on this issue. The Association of Indiana Counties supported the bill, but added in testimony that farmland assessments should be aligned with sales prices. SB 111 passed unanimously. Members are urged to contact their senators to vote yes on SB 111.
TAKE ACTION Now is also a time to remind county and other local officials how much property tax farmers pay already and in particular how much farmland taxes have escalated over the last several years while assessments in the rest of the tax base have languished.
SENATE ENVIRONMENT COMMITTEE DISCUSSES ALIGNING ENVIRONMENTAL PERMITTING In order to more effectively administer government programs, Gov. Mike Pence has proposed realigning agency activities to better coordinate efforts. One of the first proposals of that review includes moving state oversight of septic issues from the State Department of Health to IDEM. The move would include all programs and staff from ISDH who work with local health departments, who would continue to implement septic permitting at the local level. SB 107 (Sen. Ed Charbonneau, R-Valparaiso) would authorize the move and received significant testimony. Farm Bureau’s Justin Schneider spoke about the Agriculture Regulatory Structure Task Force, which was commissioned by then Lt. Gov. Skillman to review agencies that regulated or impacted ag. The task force issued a report in 2009 suggesting that water permitting programs could be better aligned and that septic oversight should move from ISDH to IDEM. The task force also recommended that a dialogue be initiated between the state and local governments to ensure that local health departments had the tools they needed to implement the programs. The bill was held for discussion about how to better engage local health departments in the decision.
SENATE CONSIDERS STREAMLINING DRAINAGE REVIEW SB 217 (Sen. Ed Charbonneau, R-Valparaiso) would remove the requirement that IDEM and DNR complete an onsite field review of county regulated drain projects. IDEM Commissioner Tom Easterly noted that technology allows most decisions to be made without the need to visit the site which will reduce costs and improve efficiency. Farm Bureau supports the bill which was held for a vote until an amendment is drafted to clarify the change.
EXCUSED ABSENCES FOR STUDENTS ATTENDING THE STATE FAIR HELD FOR AMENDMENTS On Wednesday, SB 114 was presented to the Senate Education Committee by its author, Sen. Jean Leising (R-Oldenburg). Her bill would allow up to three days of excused absence for students participating in the state fair. State fair officials testified that there are over five thousand youth exhibitors involved with livestock, while all youth exhibitors approach 17,000. With school start dates overlapping the days of the state fair, many youth exhibitors face unexcused absences for time spent completing their annual projects. An excused absence provides the students the chance to make up missed work. Katrina Hall testified in favor of the bill stating that students participating in the state fair are learning responsibility, hard work, entrepreneurship and leadership. SB 114 was held until next week while language limiting those who qualify could be worked out. A similar bill was heard on Thursday. HB 1056, authored by Rep. Bob Cherry (R-Greenfield), was heard in the House Education Committee. Justin Schneider testified in favor of HB 1056 supporting the principal of excused absence. This bill was also held for action next week.
OTHER BILLS FARM BUREAU IS SUPPORTING
HB 1039 (Rep. Matt Lehman, R-Berne) Establishes the Indiana Grown Initiative.
HB 1083 (Rep. Jerry Torr, R-Carmel) Makes changes to the child labor laws.
FORT WAYNE FARM SHOW ATTENDEES DISCUSS “PROTECTING AGRICULTURE’S RIGHT TO WATER” Farm Bureau’s Justin Schneider was the luncheon speaker at the Fort Wayne Farm Show and provided the attendees with an update on the status of water regulation in the state. The presentation included information on existing water law in Indiana and compared it to other states. The primary purpose was to inform farmers that important discussions are taking place within government about the need for a plan to ensure long term access to water, especially for uses like agriculture that depend upon consistent water resources for production.
LIBERTARIANS TARGETS SEATS The Libertarian Party of Indiana recently released a list of targeted Indiana House seats to challenge in 2014. The list contains a mix of twenty Republican and Democrat held seats.
They include: Rep. Ed Soliday (R-Valparaiso), District 4; Rep. Pat Bauer (D-South Bend), District 6; Rep. Ryan Dvorak (D-South Bend), District 8; Rep. Vernon Smith (D-Gary), District 14; Rep. Harold Slager (R-Schererville), District 15; Rep. Tim Wesco (R-Osceolo), District 21; Rep. Randolph Truitt (R-West Lafayette), District 26; Rep. Eric Turner (R-Cicero), District 32; Rep. Jack Lutz (R-Anderson), District 35; Rep. Heath VanNatter (R-Kokomo), District 38; Rep. Alan Morrison (R-Terre Haute), District 42; Rep. Kreg Battles (D-Vincennes), District 45; Rep. Richard Hamm (R-Richmond), District 56; Rep. Peggy Mayfield (R-Martinsville), District 60; Rep. Matt Ubelhor (R-Bloomfield), District 62; Rep. Tom Washburne (R-Evansville), District 64; Rep. Lloyd Arnold (R-Huntington), District 74; Rep. Wendy McNamara (R-Mt. Vernon), District 76; Rep. Christina Hale (D-Indianapolis), District 87; and Rep. Mike Speedy (R-Indianapolis), District 90.
SJR 7 FROM LAST YEAR REFILED AS SJR 9 WITH CHANGES Sen. Brent Steele (R-Bedford) filed a revised version of last year’s SJR 7 in the form of SJR 9. Instead of a constitutional amendment that combined protections for hunting, fishing and agricultural and commercial livestock production, SJR 9 focuses only on hunting and fishing. The change was prompted by agricultural groups, including Indiana Farm Bureau, who expressed concerns about the specific language in SJR 7 and the need for any constitutional amendment to protect all of agriculture not just livestock. Indiana Farm Bureau thanks Sen. Steele for his concern and passion for agriculture. A step to strengthen Indiana’s vision and commitment to agriculture is embodied in SB 186 authored by Sen. Carlin Yoder (R-Middlebury). SB 186 expands state’s vision of ag in the Indiana State Department of Agriculture statute. SB 186 moved out of the Senate Ag Committee unanimously on Tuesday.
FARM BUREAU SUPPORTS FARM PROTECTION LEGISLATION On Monday, Amy Cornell testified in support of SB 186, a bill that declares the state policy on agriculture and farmers’ rights. The bill reaffirms the General Assembly’s desire to preserve and protect the development and improvement of agriculture and agribusiness. Where permissible, the Indiana Code shall be construed to protect the rights of farmers to choose among all generally accepted farming and livestock production practices, including the use of ever changing technology. The bill passed out of the Senate Committee on Agriculture & Natural Resources with an 8-0 vote. Indiana Farm Bureau thanks Sen. Carlin Yoder (R-Middlebury) for authoring the bill.
SECOND COMMITTEE HEARING FOR AG TRESPASS DELAYED Chairman Mike Young (R-Indianapolis) of the Senate Committee on Corrections & Criminal Law delayed the second hearing for SB 101. The committee was still working on proposed amendments.
Talking points for SB 101:
- Farms and their economic viability are often harmed by trespassers. A remedy is needed to protect the private property rights of Indiana farmers.
- Farmers should be afforded the same trespass protections available to homeowners – i.e., not be obligated to post a sign.
- 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.
AFBF NATIONAL CONVENTION Voting delegates to the American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual meeting reaffirmed Farm Bureau’s policy on the farm bill and meaningful ag labor reform and maintained their support for country-of-origin labeling. The delegate session was held the final day of AFBF’s annual convention, Jan. 12-14 in San Antonio, Texas. Approximately 360 delegates from across the country participated in the policy debate, including 14 from Indiana.
Of particular interest to Indiana Farm Bureau’s delegates were data privacy/security issues, renewable fuels, and an amendment from President Don Villwock on corn bag labeling to show when the product is approved for export.
New language on renewable fuels supports continuing the biodiesel and cellulosic ethanol tax credits and federal incentives for the installation of blender pumps “until such time as market conditions warrant their phase-out.” Delegates also approved new policy that supports the protection of proprietary data collected from farmers and maintaining that such data should remain their property.
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 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.