Indiana Lt. Governor-elect Sue Ellspermann is wasting no time in dealing with tough agricultural issues. Still well over a month away from taking office, she is speaking out about her top priority for agriculture in 2013: property taxes. Last year state government attempted to use a controversial and outdated formula for determining the productivity of farmland. The soil fertility formula would have resulted in substantial increases in farmland assessments, in some cases increasing taxes on farmland as much as a 35%. Indiana Farm Bureau lobbied hard and obtained a 1 year delay in the implementation of the formula by the General Assembly. Sue Ellspermann told HAT that getting another 1 year extension is a top priority for the incoming Pence administration, “One thing we do need to get done in the first quarter of 2013 is the property tax assessment fix.” She favors a 1 year hold on implementing the soil productivity factor and then do a comprehensive benchmark study on other states to assess their taxation approach to farmland, “And, from this, develop the best model for Indiana.” She said implementation of that model would not likely take place until 2014.
Ellspermann believes that a better system can be found, but it will require some time and research which is something she hopes to get out of the General Assembly in the upcoming session. She said legislation will be introduced to deal with the farmland tax issue, “Yes, legislation dealing with this issue will be introduced.” She did not give details on who would be sponsoring the bill, but gave the impression plans were already in the works.
Research by Purdue University supports the claim that the formula being proposed by the state is inaccurate and outdated. Making changes in the soil productivity factor was part of the Pence/Ellspermann plan for agriculture outlined during their campaign.
Ellspermann also told HAT work would begin early in 2013 on the Agriculture Innovation Corridor, another key component in her campaign platform. She indicated the first step in the process would be gather all the players together in this proposed public/private partnership. A recommendation of the Indiana Biocrossroads study, the Innovation Corridor would be bring together research efforts to drive innovations in agriculture and to center those research efforts in Indiana.
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