With the current session of the Indiana General Assembly not even at the half way mark, several key pieces of farm legislation have already seen action. Indiana Farm Bureau’s top priority for this session was passage of a bill to stop implementation of a new soil productivity formula for farmland tax assessment. That passed the House Monday afternoon after passing the Senate earlier in the session. Farm Bureau’s Bob Kraft says quick action by lawmakers will avoid the new rate from going into affect on March 1,”The bill does not have to go back to the Senate, so it will be on the Governor’s desk by Friday; and I fully expect him to sign it before March 1 when the new rate would take effect.” The bill delays for 1 year the implementation of a new rate and requires the state, along with Purdue University, to study new formula alternatives. By the time the bill passed the House, it had over 66 sponsors.
Another bill moving in the General Assembly is SB 373 which will make it illegal to record an agricultural or industrial operation without the operator’s consent. The bill was amended by committee and is now before the Senate. Kraft says the measure is designed to protect the private property rights of farmers, not to hide wrongdoing, “The basic underlying principle of the bill is that private property is private and what goes on there should pretty much stay private. This is in no way a defense of mistreating animals or criminal misconduct; we don’t condone that.” During a hearing before the Senate Corrections & Criminal Law Committee, amendments were suggested that would allow for notification to local law enforcement or the Indiana Board of Animal Health. Kraft said Indiana Farm Bureau would support those measures.
The bill is sponsored by Sen. Travis Holdman (R-Markle) and has the support of Farm Bureau and several Indiana livestock groups. Kraft says these undercover videos are not produced by the media but are one-sided accusations by groups who oppose livestock production, “These videos can be manipulated and maneuvered to be used very effectively to advocate an agenda based on a false representation.”
The committee also discussed protecting an individual who transferred a recording to a media outlet. It is expected that an effort will be made to amend the bill on second reading. The bill is opposed by the HSUS and the Sierra Club. Kraft said, if the bill is weakened too much during floor debate, IFB would withdraw its support and try again next year.
Another tax bill that Indiana Farm Bureau is watching was introduced by Rep. Eric Turner (R-Cicero). HB 1546, makes a number of technical changes to various state taxes including the commercial vehicle excise tax (CVET). It makes permanent the registration of commercial trucks in fleets of 25 or more. Farm Bureau tax specialist Katrina Hall expressed concerns that because CVET has a revenue guarantee for local governments, any changes to the fees paid by fleets of trucks would make CVET paid by farmers higher. She was assured that the bill did not change any registration fees, but Indiana Farm Bureau will be watching this bill closely and urges members to remind legislators how high the CVET paid by farmers are already.