Indiana Farm Bureau delegates from across the state met over the weekend for the organization’s annual policy meeting. Here positions were adopted on a wide variety of issues that impact famers and rural residents. One issue that generated a good deal of debate was the issue of food labeling. President Don Villwock said farmers want to be transparent with consumers but, “If there are some things if we label and there is no health issue, it causes alarm by consumers making them think there is something wrong with their food. We want to be transparent but we don’t want to scare consumers.” IFB adopted a policy that supports a voluntary federal standard for labeling of foods that contain GMO products.
The issue of the treatment of animals and when and to whom abuse issues should be reported, also prompted spirited debate. Villwock said farmers want tough and science-based standards for animal care and want to be transparent with the public, but also want protection against extremists who are targeting livestock operations.
Another thorny issue was regulations. Delegates approved several positions that opposed more government regulations and others that asked for more regulations. Villwock said it is a delicate balance, “We struggle with that. We need to have regulations to protect our food, air, water, and soil; but some groups want to get over rambunctious and take things to extremes.”
New sections were added to the policy book that dealt with drones and big data issues. Indiana has been at the forefront of developing policies on these issues, and the positions adopted by IFB may serve as models for national policy that will be adopted by the AFBF early next year. The policies called for protection of a farmer’s data and more control over who can see that data. In addition, IFB called on the FAA to develop new rules governing the use of drones for agricultural use.
A few issues that have been around for decades were revisited, for example, property taxes. “Indiana farmers could be facing a $70 per acre property tax bill and that is unacceptable with current prices below the cost of production,” said Villwock. Farm Bureau also took strong stand against land grabs by both the federal government and local municipalities. While at the meeting, over 60 farmers signed an on-line letter to the EPA that voiced strong opposition to the agency’s proposed Clean Water Act plan called the “Waters of the US.” Villwock called it the largest federal land grab in history.
Katrina Hall, with the IFB public policy department, said the issue of annexation will be a major issue in the next session of the Indiana General Assembly. Farm Bureau fell one vote short of securing protection for farmers from annexation during the last legislative session.
One long-standing issue that in years past had generated long and heated debates was laid to rest. The section calling for Indiana to be moved into the Central Time Zone was removed from the book.