September 6, 2013
REPRESENTATIVE PHYLLIS POND RESIGNS State Representative Phyllis Pond (R-New Haven) has resigned from the Indiana House of Representatives effective October 15 for health reasons. Rep. Pond has represented Allen and DeKalb counties since 1978 and has always been a strong supporter of Farm Bureau. State Republican Party Chairman Tim Berry has called a caucus of GOP precinct committee members for October 8 to select someone to serve the remainder of Rep. Pond’s term in the House. Candidates who are interested must file their declaration of candidacy no later than 5:00 p.m. ET on Friday, October 4, 2013, with the Indiana Republican Party Secretary. Farm Bureau wishes Rep. Pond all the best in her retirement and thanks her for her long service to the citizens of Indiana.
NATURAL RESOURCES STUDY COMMITTEE MEETS The Natural Resources Summer Study Committee, chaired by Rep. Sean Eberhart (R-Shelbyville), met on August 27 and 28 at Pokagon State Park. The testimony focused on natural resource matters, boating enforcement, allowable weapons and ammunition caliber, water resource management and an overview of the field trail permitting process. Kris Krouse, chairman of the Indiana Invasive Species Council, gave a report on council activities, best management practices and early eradication programs. Rep. Bill Friend (R-Macy) and others testified about the need for trail maintenance funds, statewide trail policies and an alternative dispute resolution procedure. Legislators had the opportunity to take a lake tour of Pokagon State Park and the Trine State Recreation Area, which will open for day use later this fall.
RURAL ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND ANNEXATION STUDIED On September 4, the interim study committee on economic development met to discuss economic development in rural areas and the challenges it presents. The committee sought input on the rural perspective of entrepreneurship, expansion of existing business, attracting venture capital, promoting gainful employment opportunities and workforce development. They also considered annexation in rural areas of Indiana. Katrina Hall testified on rural economic development stressing that agriculture needed to be incented in the same ways as other businesses particularly because it has been Indiana’s strongest sector in recent years. She pleaded that extending broadband internet “to the last mile” was important for modern agriculture and the quality of life of farming families, especially to enable equal access to educational opportunities. Hall also testified about the numerous aggressive annexations in progress in all corners of the state. To fight a proposed annexation, a petition must be circulated that gathers signatures of at least 65 percent of parcel landowners or 75 percent of the assessed value of the area to be annexed. Primary concerns of IFB members about the existing annexation statute include the high number of petitions required to fight an annexation, the uncertainty of prevailing in court, the high cost of a court-centered process and the inadequacies of fiscal plans presented by the annexing municipalities. Hall asked for significant changes to the annexation process that currently provides little protection for farming operations and even less emphasis on farmland preservation. On September 25, this committee will consider “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.” Farm Bureau will be present to testify.
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 September 4. The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission gave annual reports on electricity, natural gas, communications and water/wastewater industries. The report is available HERE. IURC Commissioner Carolene Mays gave a report on Indiana water resource data. The report noted that: (1) very little research has been conducted on the nexus between water and economic development; (2) better coordination is needed at the state level among various agencies so that water issues can be explored on a broader scale; and (3) strategic planning is lacking for many medium and small utilities. Committee members encouraged Commissioner Mays to work with the Water Resources Study Committee to avoid a duplication of efforts. The committee also heard testimony on video service franchise fees. The State Utility Forecasting Group gave an annual report on renewable resources and a preview of the 2013 biennial electricity forecast.
OTHER STATE NEWS
GOVERNOR CREATES NEW EDUCATION AGENCY Gov. Mike Pence has established a new state agency, the Center for Education and Career Innovation, to coordinate the work of a number of state agencies that deal with education and education-related issues. According to a statement released by the governor’s office the new agency – already identified by the initials CECI - will "improve collaboration among Indiana’s public, private and non-profit education and workforce partners by aligning education and career and workforce training efforts.” The creation of the new agency met with mixed reaction. Some legislative and business leaders welcomed the effort to establish greater coordination while other legislators and teacher unions questioned the need to duplicate what they feel is the role of the Department of Education.
LANDOWNERS LEARN ABOUT NATURAL RESOURCE ENTERPRISES Indiana Farm Bureau partnered with the Indiana Agricultural Law Foundation, Purdue Extension and Mississippi State Extension to host two educational programs to help landowners who are looking for ways to create business opportunities by managing the natural resources on their property. Information was provided on the revenue potential that exists with activities such as hunting and fishing leases, bird watching, operating a bed and breakfast or turning part of the farm into an agri-tourism venture open to the public. Farm Bureau and IALF staff discussed ways to manage liability.
AG GROUPS DISCUSS NUTRIENT MANAGEMENT AT PURDUE Purdue College of Agriculture Dean Jay Akridge hosted a forum on campus for members of the Purdue faculty and extension to meet with representatives of Farm Bureau, commodity groups, and state and federal agencies. Farm Bureau’s Justin Schneider presented on a strategy developed by the agricultural organizations and Purdue Extension which focuses on reducing nutrient loss from agricultural production. The forum provided an opportunity to discuss the strategy with Purdue staff working on nutrient issues and for the faculty to share information on their research and outreach programs related to nutrient management and soil health. The forum and a subsequent reception at the home of Dean Akridge was a catalyst to stronger partnerships between Purdue faculty and the agricultural organizations.
FARM BUREAU SPONSORS WHITE RIVER FESTIVAL Indiana Farm Bureau Inc. is a sponsor of the month-long White River Festival which highlights the value of improving and protecting water resources in Central Indiana. Through this sponsorship, Farm Bureau also becomes a member of the Upper White River Watershed Alliance, a nonprofit coalition working to improve water quality through projects and education. Partnerships such as these are an important part in implementing and demonstrating agriculture’s commitment to reducing negative impacts to water quality from agricultural production.
SENATE INTERNSHIP OPPORTUNITIES The Indiana State Senate is offering paid, spring-semester internships to college undergraduates, graduate students and recent college graduates during the 2014 session of the Indiana General Assembly. Senate interns work directly with Indiana legislators at the Statehouse, located in downtown Indianapolis. These internships allow students to gain practical knowledge of state government through active participation in the legislative process. See SENATE REPUBLICANS and SENATE DEOMOCRATS for more information. Applications are due by October 31.
BIOTECH COMPANIES LAUNCH ‘GMO ANSWERS’ WEBSITE The agricultural biotechnology companies that develop genetically modified seeds or GMOs, including Monsanto and DuPont, recently came together to launch a broad, new initiative to provide information and answer the toughest questions about GMOs and how our food is grown. GMO Answers (GMOAnswers.com) is a new online resource for information about GMOs, their background, use in agriculture, and research and data in one easy-to-access public resource. Anyone can log into the site and post a question about GMOs. Questions will be voted up or down by members of the online community. Answers will be provided by scientists, members of academia, farmers and other independent experts who have volunteered their time and effort to improve communication on the subject of biotechnology (Agri-View).
Research shows that there is a need for this conversation: 49 percent of people surveyed either do not know or are unsure of what a genetically modified crop is, and most have very little understanding of what GMO products are on the market today. This lack of knowledge is a breeding ground for confusion and misconception, fueling negative perceptions and fear of the unknown.
GMO Answers is funded by the members of The Council for Biotechnology Information, which includes BASF, Bayer CropScience, Dow AgroSciences, DuPont, Monsanto Company and Syngenta.