The Indiana General Assembly wrapped up its session late Friday night; and, now that the dust has settled, a review of the session shows that Indiana farmers did pretty well. There were very few farm-related bills in the session and that in itself is a victory, says Bob Kraft with Indiana Farm Bureau, “When legislators ask what can they do for us, our response has been leave us alone. Just let us go about our business, don’t regulate, or over legislate.” The top priority for Farm Bureau this session was passage of a measure to postpone the new soil fertility tax assessment formula. That was passed early in the session and was the first law the Governor Pence signed. According to Kraft, “We estimate it will save farmers about $150-$160 million this year.” He said the Pence administration has promised to study other ways of assessing farmland and that IFB will continue to work on this issue.
Several transportation bills were passed that will relieve farmers from some burdensome federal regulations, including allowing unlicensed farm children to move equipment from one field to another. Lawmakers also passed bills dealing with local government annexation which will benefit owners of farmland and rural communities.
Lawmakers passed a new 2 year state budget which Kraft says is farmer-friendly, “We were successful in keeping state support of the equine industry; there had been a move to direct some of this funding to the motor sports industry. In addition, the budget provides more funds for education and road funding. The inheritance tax was also repealed. A study committee was formed to deal with Indiana’s water resource issues.
The one major defeat came in the 11th hour when SB373, which would have prevented unauthorized videotaping on farms, was pulled because of strong opposition from organized labor, the media, and animal activist groups. “That is a very powerful lobby to overcome. We came close but, in the end, fell short,” said Kraft. On Monday, Farm Bureau released a statement thanking those who supported the legislation, “We thank Senators Holdman and Steele and Representatives Friend, Lehe and Steuerwald for their efforts to craft a bill. These legislators stood up for the rights of Hoosiers despite an intensive media effort to discredit the bill.” Farm Bureau said lawmakers should have looked beyond the media misrepresentation of the legislation, ” Indiana farmers and businesses who conduct themselves according to the highest ethical and professional standards are often targets of those who seek to disparage their business activity. The proposed additions to current Indiana code would have helped keep Indiana businesses from becoming such targets.”
Listen to a complete wrap up of the legislative session here and the audio section of the Hoosier Ag Today Smartphone app.