To make sure you receive future emails,
please add to your address book or safe list.
Click to view this as a web page.

March 22, 2013
Volume 13
Issue 16
Thanks to Boone, Clay, Jefferson, St. Joseph and Switzerland County Farm Bureaus and the Vincennes University ag students for visiting the Statehouse this week.
The following Statehouse visits are scheduled for next week:
Tuesday, March 26 – Newton and Union counties.      

The second half of the 2013 legislative session is now in full swing with bills being heard in committee and beginning to make their way through the floor process in the second house. The third-reading deadline for House bills to pass the Senate is April 10 and for Senate bills to pass the House is April 15. After those dates, the consideration of any bill, including conference committee reports in which differences between the versions of the bill by the House and the Senate are resolved, must be approved by the Rules Committee in each house before it is offered for consideration by the full house. This means that there are about two weeks left for committee hearings this session.

VIDEOTAPING BILL HELD IN HOUSE COMMITTEE   The House Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee heard testimony on SB 373 (Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle, and Rep. Bill Friend, R-Macy). This is the bill that will make it illegal to photograph, videotape or otherwise record agricultural or industrial operations without the consent of the property's owner for the purpose of harming the owner. The bill contains an exception for those who record an activity they suspect is illegal and share the recording with an appropriate enforcement authority within 48 hours. There was significant testimony both for and against the bill. 

Farm Bureau staff worked with the other agricultural organizations to coordinate testimony, and Farm Bureau’s Bob Kraft testified in favor of the bill. Representatives of the Indiana Pork Advocacy Coalition, Indiana Beef Cattle Association, Indiana State Poultry Association, the Agribusiness Council of Indiana, the Indiana Chamber of Commerce and the Indiana Manufacturer’s Association also supported the bill. The ag testimony focused on the need to protect the privacy of farmers and their business interests from false claims of animal abuse and other illegal activity taking place on farms. It was also noted that the bill supports reporting of suspected incidents of animal abuse or other violations of laws or regulations through its provision which allows photographs and videos to be taken without the property owner’s consent if that evidence is provided to appropriate authorities within 48 hours of the incident occurring.
As expected, groups representing the media, animal rights organizations and environmental organizations opposed the bill. Several members of the media were present, including local television stations and other film crews.

Committee Chairman Don Lehe (R-Brookston) held the bill until the committee’s next hearing when amendments will be considered and a vote will be taken. The committee will not hear any testimony at that hearing, which will probably occur on March 28.

HOUSE COMMITTEE AMENDS AND APPROVES MOTOR VEHICLE BILL   The House Roads & Transportation Committee has amended and forwarded to the full House SB 538, a comprehensive bill from the Bureau of Motor Vehicles that addresses a number of BMV issues. The bill will leave unchanged current law that allows anyone, regardless of age or status as a licensed driver, to move farm equipment (implements of agriculture designed for off-road farming activities) on public roads for the purpose of moving them from field to field. It was amended to retain the current law that allows anyone at least 15 years old drive a farm wagon on a public road.

SENATE PASSES AG TRANSPORTATION BILL WITHOUT CHANGE   On Monday, the Senate passed HB 1068 (Rep. Bob Cherry, R-Greenfield, and Sen. Randy Head, R-Logansport) by a unanimous vote of 47-0. This bill, which the House also passed unanimously, is one of Farm Bureau’s priorities. It will change Indiana law regarding the requirements for some agricultural transportation situations to make the law in Indiana consistent with changes in the federal law that were enacted by Congress last summer. HB 1068 provides that the drivers of farm trucks during the planting and harvesting seasons will be exempt from the federal hours of service requirements if they do not travel more than 150 air miles to or from the source of the ag commodity or supply. The proposed law would also exempt the drivers of covered farm vehicles from most of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety regulations. The bill is now headed to Gov. Mike Pence for his signature.

SENATE COMMITTEE  OKs BILL TO RELIEVE FOOD DONORS OF LIABILITY   This week the Senate Civil Law Committee voted unanimously to approve SB 1519 (Rep. Milo Smith, R-Columbus, and Sen. Greg Walker, R-Columbus). This bill adds agricultural products and livestock to the list of items which, if donated in good faith to a charitable entity, do not leave the donor liable for civil damages unless the damages are the result of that person's intentional or reckless misconduct. It also provides similar immunity to the charity that receives the gift of a food item. Bob Kraft testified in support of the bill on behalf of Farm Bureau.

SENATE COMMITTEE APPROVES ARTISAN DISTILLER MEASURE   The Senate Public Policy Committee amended and approved HB 1293 (Rep. Ed Clere, R-New Albany, and Sen. Jim Banks, R-Columbia City) this week. This bill will establish a procedure to license and permit farm wineries and craft breweries in the state to produce distilled spirits as well. Farm Bureau’s Bob Kraft testified in support of the bill, noting that farm wineries and craft breweries provide a market for Indiana fruit and grain and that such enterprises are often undertaken by farmers. He noted that these ventures are becoming an increasingly integral part of Indiana’s agri-tourism industry.

LT. GOVERNOR FACILITATES INDIANA BAT MEETING   Representatives of the timber industry have been working with Lt. Gov. Ellspermann to address concerns over restrictions on the harvesting of timber due to potential impacts on the Indiana bat. Farm Bureau’s Justin Schneider participated in the meeting to gather information on how the restrictions may impact private landowners. Discussions among the group, which includes representatives of state and federal agencies, will continue.

SB 475 LOCAL GOVERNMENT ISSUES   SB 475, authored by Sen. Travis Holdman (R-Huntington)  and sponsored by Rep. Martin Carbaugh (R-Ft. Wayne), was heard in the House Government & Regulatory Reform Committee on Tuesday. In its current form, SB 475 is restricted to Allen County. Under SB 475, a vote by two of the three Allen County commissioners would trigger a referendum which would decide whether or not Allen County would have a single county executive. The bill was supported by Nelson Peters, one of the Allen County commissioners, the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, and the Allen County Chamber of Commerce.    The Indiana Association of County Commissioners testified as neutral on this version of the bill, but pledged opposition if it was amended to apply on a statewide basis. Katrina Hall of Indiana Farm Bureau provided the only testimony against SB 475. Indiana Farm Bureau policy values the rural representation and access to officeholders provided by the current county commissioner system. Two amendments were made to the bill, one that would protect the autonomy of the Allen County sheriff and one that would change the county council from four districts and three at-large seats to seven district seats. In this bill, the county council would become the county legislative body rather than the county commissioners for such issues as zoning and drainage. While some legislators on the committee said they voted for the bill because they thought the seven districts gave geographic representation to rural areas, Hall commented that the drawing of seven district seats could just as easily work against the rural areas. The bill moved out of committee by a vote of 9-3 and is now eligible for action by the entire House. Farm Bureau members are asked to tell legislators they do not support SB 475 because: It targets Allen County unfairly; it reduces rural representation and citizen access to county commissioners; the single county executive is probably not more cost effective; and the bill leaves unanswered questions as to how drainage and zoning will be affected.”

HB 1067 FEDERAL FUND EXCHANGE PROGRAM   HB 1067, authored by Rep. Bob Cherry (R-Greenfield) and sponsored by Sen. Tom Wyss (R-Ft. Wayne), establishes the Federal Fund Exchange Program to allow a county or municipality that receives funds from the Federal Surface Transportation Program to exchange the federal funds for an agreed upon amount of state funds which can be no less than 75 percent exchange rate. Support for this measure was added to Farm Bureau policy in the last delegate session. HB 1067 is intended to maximize the road maintenance potential of local, state and federal road funding dollars. HB 1067 passed out of the Senate Homeland Security & Transportation Committee and was recommitted to Senate Appropriations. The bill was heard on Thursday and was amended and moved out of committee quickly by a vote 12-0. The language from this bill is a part of the over-arching look the General Assembly is taking at state and local road funding.

SB 528 GAMING   SB 528, authored by Sen. Ron Alting (R-Lafayette) and Sen. Phil Boots (R-Waynetown) and sponsored by Rep. Bill Davis (R-Redkey), deals with the taxes paid by Indiana’s casinos and racinos. The bill as it left the Senate provided tax relief to gaming interests at the expense of gaming revenues that went to “riverboat counties” and all other counties in the state. For those concerned about SB 528, the House Public Policy Committee amended all the changes to county gaming revenue out of the bill to maintain the status quo.  SB 528 passed out of committee and was recommitted to Ways & Means Committee where it will be heard on March 27.

U.S. HOUSE PASSES BUDGET   The House passed House Concurrent Resolution 25, its version of the fiscal year 2014 budget (Oct. 1, 2013, through Sept. 30, 2014), by a party line vote of 221-207. The House budget achieves $4.6 trillion in savings from current policy through 2023 and aims to balance the budget by 2023. The budget aims at repealing the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) and focuses on fundamental tax reform by broadening the base and lowering the rate with the goal of eliminating all but two income tax brackets, one at 10 percent and the other at 25 percent. Furthermore, the corporate rate would be reduced to 25 percent and the plan would raise no new revenue through taxes but would achieve a balanced budget by 2023 through spending cuts. The budget also repeals the Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act and replaces it with a voucher-like model beginning in 2024 and also transforms Medicaid into a block grant program. The House budget keeps sequestration in place. 

Regarding agriculture, the budget cuts $31 billion in farm programs and turns the food stamp program into a block-grant, cash benefit program once employment recovers. The budget does not specify where the cuts should be made. Instead, it gives the House Agriculture Committee the discretion to allocate the cuts. Farm Bureau continues to analyze the budget’s impact. With regard to the farm bill process, it is important to note that any specific policy proposals in this budget are only recommendations to the House Agriculture Committee, although the overall numbers are likely to be required targets for the Agriculture Committee.

U.S. SENATE EPW UNANIMOUSLY ADVANCES WRDA   The Senate Environment & Public Works Committee unanimously advanced S. 601, the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2013. The bill would authorize new flood protection, navigation and ecosystem restoration projects while instituting a number of reforms to the Army Corps of Engineers’ processes. Some of the provisions included in WRDA will promote investment in the nation’s critical water resources infrastructure, accelerate project delivery and reform the implementation of the Corps’ projects. Included in the mark-up are changes to project authorization, project delivery reforms, Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund reform and an innovative project financing pilot program. One outstanding issue not included in the mark-up is the need to free up additional funds for the construction and renovation of locks and dams on the nation’s inland waterways. A manager’s amendment is expected to address this issue when WRDA heads to the floor in April or May.

FARM BILL SEQUESTRATION   The across-the-board budget cuts known as sequestration took effect on March 1. The Farm Service Agency temporarily suspended disbursement of payments for many FSA programs on March 1. On Thursday, USDA notified Congress of its intention to capture the required sequester savings by reducing payments made through the direct payment program account by up to 8.5 percent. There is a 30-day congressional notification period that must pass before USDA moves forward. Therefore, payments in the following programs will continue to be deferred for the next 30 days: 2011 Supplemental Revenue Assistance Payments Program (SURE), Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) for both 2012 and 2013 crop years, and the Milk Income Loss Contract Program (MILC). After 30 days, USDA intends to resume making these program payments in full.
A reduction only to direct payments will minimize disruption to farmers and ranchers who have already received and will soon be seeking disaster assistance through SURE or NAP. It will allow producers who suffered disasters to be fully paid, and it will avoid having to require approximately 350,000 producers to refund 5.1 percent of the payments they have already received. It will also prevent USDA from incurring a significant administrative burden that would be required to recoup these payments.

FEDERAL CONTINUING RESOLUTION & FY13 AG APPROPRIATIONS BILL   This week, the Senate passed the continuing resolution (CR), H.R. 933, the Consolidated & Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2013 by a vote of 73-26. The House passed the CR by a vote of 318-109. The president indicated that he will sign the CR into law. This bill prevents a government shutdown and continues government operations until the end of the fiscal year, Sept. 30, 2013. Funding levels within the CR incorporate the sequestration cuts. Sequestration cuts lower the total funding levels from $1.043 trillion to $984 billion.

The Senate voted on the following amendments on which AFBF took a position:

  • Food Safety and Inspection Service: PASSED   The amendment transfers $55 million in existing agriculture funds to the Food Safety & Inspection Service in order to ensure meat inspectors are not furloughed. Furloughing meat inspectors, which USDA announced would have occurred under the sequestration cuts, would have implications that negatively affect both livestock producers and consumers. Farm Bureau supported this amendment.
  • Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure: PASSED   The amendment prevents the Environment Protection Agency from enforcing the Spill Prevention, Control & Countermeasure rule against farmers through the end of the fiscal year. Farm Bureau supported this amendment. 
  • Biofuel: FAILED   This amendment to remove funds to help procure alternative fuels that help strengthen national security while insulating the Department of Defense from price shocks on the global oil market failed by a vote of 40-59. These fuels would be domestically produced and contribute to rural development while providing additional revenue opportunities for farmers and ranchers. Farm Bureau supported and helped to secure funding for the DOD biofuel initiative last Congress. Farm Bureau opposed this amendment.




Cvent - Web-based Software Solutions