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Regulatory reform

IDEM, DNR to make changes in some permitting programs

The development of a deliberate and comprehensive water plan is a top priority of Indiana Farm Bureau. SEA 271(Sen. Ed Charbonneau, R-Valparaiso) moves that goal further down the line by authorizing a study of the water resources in the state and the impact they have on economic development and rural Indiana, in particular agriculture. The bill requires a review of government structure for water management and how state and local entities can better coordinate activities.

After much negotiation, the Indiana Departments of Environmental Management and Natural Resources have been charged with implementing a process by Jan. 1, 2015, to improve efficiency and transparency in permitting programs for water quality certifications, isolated wetland activity and floodway activity. Currently, many activities are subject to a permit from both DNR and IDEM and often from federal agencies.

HEA 1217 (Rep. Steve Davisson, R-Salem) began as an effort to require IDEM and DNR to implement one permitting program, but agency concerns about cost and their administrative software led to a focus on: (1) informing individuals of the permits they need, (2) changing permit forms and processes so that duplicate information is not needed, (3) determining how one agency can serve as the single point of contact for collecting applications and issuing permits, (4) creating a process for timely review, and (5) monitoring of the process. Farm Bureau views this as an important step in regulatory reform and will work with the agencies in the coming months to ensure that the process is completed on time and fulfills the intent of the General Assembly.

Levee associations, which were created under government authority and had been operating under expired code provisions, are now subject to the requirements for levee committees found in IC 14-27-3. HEA 1053(Rep. Messmer, R-Jasper) unanimously passed the House and the Senate. Farm Bureau supported the bill in an effort to address challenges which faced levee associations attempting to operate under expired laws that no longer provided the tools those levees need to operate.

HEA 1083 (Rep. Jerry Torr, R-Carmel), places into Indiana law the federal exemption for working in certain occupations designated as hazardous. The exemption allows a child to work for the child’s parent or person standing in the place of the parent on a farm owned or operated by the parent or person. Farm Bureau appreciates Rep. Torr’s support because this has been a much needed alignment of state and federal law.

While fish and wildlife kills from agricultural activities are rare, a few alleged minor fish kills have garnered a lot of attention from farmers because of the process used by the state to collect the damages. Current law allows the state to make a claim for damages. The accused had no opportunity to dispute liability, other than refusing responsibility and waiting for the attorney general to file suit.

HEA 1307 (Rep. Sean Eberhart, R-Shelbyville) establishes an administrative procedure in which the alleged responsible party can present his or her own evidence regarding liability and damages to the state.

The bill also establishes a recreational trail maintenance fund. While no money has been directed to the fund, DNR can receive gifts, appropriations from the General Assembly, or federal grants for trail maintenance.

Indiana’s livestock and manure storage laws were clarified in SEA 359 (Sen. Ed Charbonneau, R-Valparaiso). SEA 359 removes statutory provisions that created internal inconsistencies within the confined feeding operation permit program. The changes now clarify that an approval is good for five years and that renewals must be submitted 30 days before expiration of the exiting approval. Individuals with an approval allowing construction have four years and 11 months to begin construction as compared to the current requirement to begin construction within two years and complete it within four. The law expands the allowance to compost organic matter without obtaining a solid waste processing permit and requires notice for construction of a satellite manure storage system to anyone within a half mile of the proposed facility, which is the same as notice for construction of a confined feeding operation.

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