January 24, 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. County presidents, state legislative chairs or regional managers will schedule visits on-line. If you have any questions, please contact Zach Schmidt at 317-692-7855 or email@example.com.
The following counties have scheduled visits to the Statehouse next week.
Monday, Jan. 27 – Clay.
Tuesday, Jan. 28 – Newton.
Wednesday, Jan. 29 – Floyd and Kosciusko.
Thursday, Jan. 30 – Lake and Porter.
Thanks to Delaware, Henry and Jasper counties for visiting last week.
SOIL PRODUCTIVITY BILL PASSES THE SENATE One of Indiana Farm Bureau’s top priorities made substantial progress this week. SB 111, authored by Sen. Jean Leising (R-Oldenburg), unanimously passed out of the Senate on Thursday afternoon by a vote of 48-0. The support of the entire Senate and Sen. Leising’s leadership is much appreciated for this high priority of Indiana Farm Bureau. SB 111 goes to the House next week for committee assignment.
PERSONAL PROPERTY PROPOSALS MOVE OUT OF COMMITTEE Amidst complaints and concerns from local officials about revenue losses, different proposals to eliminate portions of the personal property tax moved out of the fiscal committees in each House this week. SB 1, authored by Sen. Hershman (R-Buck Creek), exempts taxpayers with $25,000 or less in personal property from property tax. He indicated that 71 percent of personal property taxpayers would be exempted in this bill, which also lowers the corporate gross income tax. Katrina Hall testified in favor of the bill as a starting point for discussions and because the bill includes a blue ribbon commission to study personal property tax and additional ways to eliminate it over time. HB 1001, authored by Rep. Eric Turner (R-Cicero), passed out of the House Ways & Means Committee on Thursday. HB 1001 provides for a local option by the county income tax council to allow the elimination of new personal property in their county. This bill basically provides a method for automatic abatement to all owners of business personal property and requires no application or approval process. Indiana Farm Bureau supported HB 1001 as a measured first step in providing relief from personal property tax where the tax base is such that shifts would not be significant or where local officials want to create a more attractive tax climate for business development. It is clear that House and Senate leaders will be conferring over a final package that will also meet the goals set out by Gov. Pence in his State of the State address.
GENERAL ASSEMBLY SUPPORTS STREAMLINING GOVERNMENT The House Environmental Affairs Committee passed HB 1217, authored by Rep. Steve Davisson (R-Salem), which establishes a procedure to remove the requirement that landowners receive separate permits from DNR and IDEM for some activities, such as work in creeks, rivers and some wetlands. The vote was 9-2 with the two dissenting voters noting that they supported the concept but that the bill needs to be amended to address some challenges the language could raise for implementation. Farm Bureau’s Justin Schneider testified in support of the bill and noted the need for government to be more efficient and transparent, and he committed to working with legislators to draft an amendment to address concerns. The bill was introduced by Rep. Don Lehe (R-Brookston), who was filling in for Rep. Davisson who is recovering from surgery. All of us at Farm Bureau wish Rep. Davisson a speedy recovery.
SENATE COMMITTEE PASSES SB 101 The Senate Corrections & Criminal Law Committee chaired by Sen. Mike Young (R-Indianapolis) passed SB 101 (enhanced ag trespass) as amended. The amended bill adds causing property damage to an agricultural operation to the existing crime of institutional criminal mischief. Indiana farmers will not be required to post “no trespassing” signs to protect the production areas of their farms. If a trespasser commits an intentional act that causes property damage it could result in additional penalties depending on the amount of damage caused. To get more involved and take action, please visit our website.
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 property damages could 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.
- First Amendment rights do NOT include a right to trespass.
HOUSE ROADS & TRANSPORTATION COMMITTEE PASSES MAP-21 FIX The House Roads & Transportation Committee chaired by Rep. Edmond Soliday (R-Valparaiso), passed HB 1219 (farm products and farm vehicles). Rep. Bob Cherry (R-Greenfield) authored the bill to create consistency with the federal MAP-21 definitions and exemptions given to farmers. HB 1219 clearly defines vehicles that are eligible for farm plates. Indiana Farm Bureau policy supports enforcement of laws that apply to the correct purchase and application of farm truck plates.
SENATE PASSES AGRICULTURAL POLICY AND FARMERS’ RIGHTS BILL The Senate passed SB 186 on third reading 40-8. SB 186 declares the state policy on agriculture and farmers’ rights. The bill states that 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.
Talking points for SB 186:
- Farm Bureau strongly supports SB 186, a bill that strengthens and reaffirms Indiana’s vision for and commitment to agriculture.
- Agriculture is vital to Indiana's economy. It represents $25 billion to the state economy.
- Farmers need to be able to choose from all farming and husbandry practices to be successful in raising food, feed, fiber and fuel for this and future generations.
- SB 186 does not trump existing laws. Breaking the law is not a generally accepted ag practice.
- The General Assembly historically has demonstrated its support of agriculture. The bill simply voices the legislators’ support and clarifies their intent regarding interpretations of statutes.
- Farmers are committed to growing the very best food for Hoosier families.
- Farmers are proud of their tradition of hard work and dedication that puts safe and affordable food on the table.
- Indiana Farm Bureau supports law that protects the rights of farmers to choose among generally accepted ag practices.
FISCAL SOUNDNESS OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT TO BE REVEALED ON EXPANDED WEBSITE SB 106 was heard in Senate Appropriations on Thursday and voted out of committee. Authored by Sen. Ed Charbonneau (R-Valparaiso), SB 106 expands the use of state government’s transparency portal to include financial health indicators for all local units and school corporations. Katrina Hall testified in favor of this measure, which aims to provide the public an electronic “dashboard” that will analyze financial data of each unit. This kind of information is already a public record but not readily available to citizens in an understandable form. The bill maintains current responsibility of reviewing applications for assistance with the Distressed Unit Appeals, but it expands its role as an advisory resource to all local units.
ASSESSMENT DATE CHANGE TO JAN. 1 MOVES OUT OF SENATE LOCAL GOVERNMENT SB 420, authored by Sen. Randy Head (R-Logansport), is a follow-up bill from one last session. The goal of SB 420 is to provide more time for county assessors to complete their assessment duties so that tax base figures are available to the local government budget process that begins in September. Katrina Hall testified that Indiana Farm Bureau policy does not support the assessment date change. After last year’s bill, Farm Bureau members decided not to change policy that for many years has supported the Mar. 1 assessment date. Hall explained that our members were influenced by their accountants who insisted that they could not help farmers complete personal property returns if dates were changed. This year’s version changes the assessment date, but only changes the filing date by two weeks. The CPA Society supported the bill in spite of their advice urging Farm Bureau members to oppose date changes. The bill passed out of committee but was referred to the Senate Tax & Fiscal Committee. A similar bill will be heard in the House next week.
ALTERNATIVES TO TRADITIONAL ROAD FUNDING TO BE STUDIED HB 1104, authored by Rep. Ed Soliday (R-Valparaiso), moved out of the House this week by a vote of 93-1. As recognized and reported by the Indiana Farm Bureau internal road funding taskforce, traditional gas tax revenues have been declining as gas prices and vehicle mileage have increased. The bill allows INDOT to request proposals for an in-depth study into various methods of raising revenue for road construction, some of which would be based on miles traveled. If the bill clears both houses, Farm Bureau staff will be following this study closely for the affects alternative road funding models will have on farmers and other rural residents.
IFB STRONGLY OPPOSES REPEAL OF FENCE LAW IN HB 1005 Rep. Jud McMillin (R-Brookville) introduced legislation in HB 1005 that would repeal the fence law. Indiana Farm Bureau policy favors the retention and enforcement of the present fence laws. HB 1005 is scheduled for a second hearing in the House Select Committee on government reduction on Monday, Jan. 28.
WATER STUDY DISCUSSED The Senate Environmental Affairs Committee took quick action and has unanimously passed SB 271, authored by Sen. Ed Charbonneau (R-Valparaiso), which urges the legislative council to assign a comprehensive study on water management. The study will review availability of water in Indiana and economic impacts from water resource challenges, receive testimony on how states agencies can better coordinate their activities relating to water management with other state agencies and local government, and discuss the key elements of a state water plan. Farm Bureau’s Justin Schneider joined a group of utility, business and scientific interests who all testified in support of the bill.
OTHER STATE NEWS
SAVE THE DATE: CAMPAIGN MANAGEMENT SEMINAR Each year, Indiana Farm Bureau sponsors a campaign seminar 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 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 Indiana Farm Bureau home office. See the Campaign Management Seminar brochure to review more details.
FARM BILL NEGOTIATIONS STILL MOVING SLOWLY Reports from Washington, D.C., this week suggest that an agreement among farm bill conferees on a new dairy policy without supply management means the farm bill is reaching completion. However, there remain several loose ends until Congress reconvenes next week. Provisions for crop support caps and country-of-origin labeling for meat and meat products are still in negotiation.
COOL CHANGES LIKELY IN FARM BILL DEBATE Farm bill negotiations have turned to country-of-origin labeling rules with the potential of being changed without a vote by the full conference committee.
Less than a month ago, it seemed all but certain that a second and final meeting would be held for the 41 farm bill conferees to vote on various contentious issues, but that now seems unlikely. The House version calls for a study of the USDA’s COOL rules. COOL supporters are concerned that proponents in the meat packing industry are working to push negotiators to change COOL, expressing concern over trade-related challenges and punitive measures taken against U.S. companies by Canada and Mexico. The World Trade Organization has not ruled on the latest challenges yet, but is set to begin another hearing on the issue Feb. 18.
However, Mary Kay Thatcher, senior director for congressional relations at the American Farm Bureau Federation, believes the four farm bill principals may yet decide to hold a final hearing on the legislation, allowing a vote on COOL. If not, they’ll likely come up with some kind of compromise, “something in the middle,” she said. Farm Bureau supports WTO-compliant COOL.
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. See the published rule in its entirety.
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.
OSHA PROPOSES REGULATION TO MAKE EMPLOYER INJURY AND ILLNESS RECORDS PUBLICLY AVAILABLE On Nov. 8, 2013, OSHA proposed three new rules that would require employers to submit injury and illness information to OSHA that will be made publicly available. View the proposal, Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses, 78 Fed. Reg. 67254. Comments are due Feb. 6, 2014.
This regulation makes information inaccessible to the public, which could impact prospective employees and customer choices. It specifically targets agriculture and will be costly and burdensome to all employers. Farm Bureau opposes the proposal and will be submitting comments.