With only 2 weeks left in the legislative session, several key bills that impact farmers are in danger of being ignored. Funding for local roads and bridges has been a major priority for Indiana agriculture. But as Patrick Pfingsten, with the Indiana Soybean Alliance and Indiana Corn Growers Association, tells HAT funding for repair and upkeep of local roads is in danger of being left out of a final road bill, “There is a game of political chicken going on in the General Assembly.” At issue is where the funds will come from to fix Indiana’s crumbling rural infrastructure. Pfingsten says corn and soybean growers are open to a variety of funding options, as long as the funds are there to fix local roads and bridges, “The Governor and Senate Republicans do not want to raise the gas tax to help generate funds. Our board of directors are okay with a tax hike as long as there is funding to fix rural roads and bridges around the state.” He is concerned that, unless farmers make their voice heard, rural roads could get left out of a last minute deal that gets done to get the transportation bill passed.
A bill to provide property tax relief for farmers also suffered a setback in the legislature this week. SB 308, authored by Sen. Brandt Hershman, was amended in the House Ways & Means Committee to freeze the base through 2017 at $2,050 and flat line the value going forward by growing it by 1 percent per year until it intersects with the calculated base value from the formula. While this freezes farmland property taxes, it does so at a rate 63% higher than it was in 2007. This was one of the top legislative priorities for Indiana Farm Bureau. “INFB is disappointed that lowering farmland tax bills is no longer the goal of SB 308; instead, it’s simple stability of bills,” they said in a statement on Friday.
With farm income declining sharply, property taxes on farmland becomes a serious issue for producers. Pfingsten stated, “We are calling on our members to contact their legislators and ask for support of the original language in SB 308.”