November 1, 2013
LEGAL AFFAIRS STAFF
Members of the legal affairs team, including Mark Thornburg, Sara MacLaughlin, Justin Schneider and Amy Cornell, attended the American Agricultural Law Association 34th Annual Ag Law Symposium in Madison, Wis. The conference included updates in tax, food, natural resources, animal and environmental law. David R. Minge, a former congressman (D-Minn.), delivered the keynote address regarding agriculture and the environment. The AALA is a membership organization that focuses on the legal needs of the agricultural community. Crossing traditional barriers, the association offers an independent, non-partisan forum for investigation of innovative and workable solutions to complex agricultural law problems. This role has taken on greater importance in the midst of the current international and environmental issues, reshaping agriculture and the impending technological advances which promise equally dramatic changes.
FARM BUREAU SUPPORTS DELIBERATE WATER RESOURCE PLANNING The water resources study committee completed its summer study of water availability by hearing testimony related to water usage and the information needed to determine what changes, if any, are needed in how Indiana regulates water use. Farm Bureau’s Justin Schneider testified about agriculture’s use of water for livestock and crop production, as well as the water needs of related agribusinesses such as food processing. He also provided an overview of how other states regulate water usage based upon their common law and the statues and regulations that have been put in place. Farm Bureau supports the development of a water resource plan for Indiana so long as the plan is comprehensive, is well thought out and recognizes agriculture’s need for high priority as a user of water.
OTHER STATE NEWS
INVITATION-ONLY EVENTS FOR COUNTY FARM BUREAU POLICY COMMITTEES Check your email for an invitation in the coming weeks. The Indiana Farm Bureau public policy team will be working with county Farm Bureaus to host “Making Policy Work for Hoosier Farmers.” These training sessions are for members of the local, state and national policy action and policy development committees. Members of these committees are encouraged to attend one of the events. For more information, please contact your regional manager or county president.
CERTIFIED CROP ADVISER AWARD NOVEMBER DEADLINE Indiana Farm Bureau has been a co-sponsor of the Certified Crop Adviser 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 a leader in their field and contributes substantially to the exchange of ideas in the agriculture industry. See a short, informational video about CCA.
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 must be received by Nov. 22 and sent to:
Indiana Farm Bureau Inc.
PO Box 1290
Indianapolis, IN 46206-1290
COURT OVERRULES EPA ACTION ON AGRICULTURAL STORMWATER In a significant victory for farmers across the country, a federal district court in West Virginia has ruled in favor of poultry farmer Lois Alt, the American Farm Bureau Federation and the West Virginia Farm Bureau in a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency. The lawsuit began after EPA sent notice that Alt had violated the Clean Water Act and EPA regulations because poultry litter and dust had been blown through fans from the poultry houses and deposited on the ground where it was later mixed with rainwater and flowed from the property. The court held that the litter and manure that washed from the farmyard to navigable waters was subject to the agricultural stormwater discharge exemption in the Clean Water Act. Therefore, it was not a point source discharge and the farm did not need a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit.
In reaching the decision, the court noted the fact that Alt used management practices to limit the amount of litter and manure that would be exposed to precipitation. The court also concluded that the part of the farmyard between the buildings where the litter and manure came in contact with the precipitation was not part of the CAFO production area, i.e., not the animal confinement area, the manure storage area, the raw material storage area, or the waste containment area. EPA has the ability to appeal the decision to a federal circuit court of appeals.
INDIANA FARM BUREAU URGES LAWMAKERS TO PASS IMMIGRATION REFORM Indiana farmers joined 13 other state Farm Bureaus and more than 600 business leaders during the Americans for Reform immigration fly-in event on Oct. 28-29 in Washington, D.C., to advocate for an agriculture labor solution as part of broader immigration reform. IFB members spent time on Capitol Hill talking with their congressional representatives about their need for a reliable workforce. As a Farm Bureau priority and central issue of the current heat is on campaign, ag labor reform and its many challenges were highlighted to House members.
“It simply comes down to whether we want our food grown here in our country in a safe manner that we have control over, or if we want to be in a position where we have to import our food because of a labor shortage. It is a food security issue as well as an economic issue,” said IFB member John Metzger.
In addition to the problems of labor shortages and impacts to food and economic security, the issue of the current undocumented agricultural workforce was raised.
“We aren’t necessarily asking for an easy pathway to citizenship here. However, we need some way to help our current illegal workforce out of the shadows and live without fear of being taken away from their jobs, homes, and families,” said Doug Leman, executive director of Indiana Dairy Producers. He further noted that “it isn’t just the workers and their families living in fear. The farmers are also dealing with this issue and have no practical way to deal with it due to a broken immigration system.”
Farm Bureau is urging Congress to pass an agriculture labor program with both short and long-term stability. “It’s a way to keep our experienced workforce, while making sure we have access to a legal workforce through a streamlined and flexible guest worker program in the future,” said AFBF President Stallman.
In seeking a meaningful legislative solution to agriculture’s worker shortage, Farm Bureau believes that comprehensive immigration reform must include an uncapped Agricultural Visa Program (AVP) to ensure a future legal workforce and an adjustment of status for experienced but unauthorized agricultural workers after meeting certain stringent requirements including paying back taxes, remaining in agriculture for several years and paying a penalty fee.
Americans for Reform is comprised of conservative faith, law enforcement and business groups from around the nation. The group held more than 150 congressional meetings during the immigration reform fly-in. For the latest tweets from fly-in participants on the event, follow #Ready4Reform. Also, follow national policy advisor Kyle Cline @ifbkyle.
FARM BILL TALKS OPEN WEDNESDAY - FROM POLITICO As formal talks open Wednesday, farm bill negotiators are looking at new alternatives to better align the House and Senate commodity titles and reduce the cost of rival revenue insurance plans to protect against shallow losses. An anticipated meeting between President Barack Obama and the top four leaders of the House and Senate agriculture committees has been put off because of an apparent scheduling conflict. But the White House signaled it will still pursue discussions to underscore Obama’s commitment to completing a farm bill before January. Most public attention has focused on the deep divide over food stamp funding. But the commodity title is its own battleground. Read more.
HARVEST SAFETY REMINDER FOR FARMERS Putting farm equipment on the road is all about safety. Many members of the public are not accustomed to dealing with slow-moving, oversized vehicles in their path. It is important that farmers follow the regulations in place to protect themselves and the public.
It is illegal for implements of agriculture and farm vehicles loaded with farm products to unreasonably interfere with highway traffic (IC 9-21-8-47). Further, the driver of a tractor or implement of agriculture, such as a combine, being driven at a slow speed so that three or more vehicles are blocked and cannot pass on the left around the vehicle shall give right-of-way to the other vehicles by pulling off to the right of the right lane at the earliest reasonable opportunity and allowing the blocked vehicles to pass (IC 9-21-5-7). A citation can be issued for not pulling over (IC 9-21-5-13). For more information, see the Purdue publication Transporting Farm Equipment - What Growers Need to Know.