August 28, 2013
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Delegates support eliminating direct farm payments, controlling local annexations
Indiana Farm Bureau delegates approved policy in favor of limiting the ability of cities and towns to annex farm ground, and they also reaffirmed their support for significant changes in the federal farm program – specifically, eliminating direct payments in exchange for improving crop insurance.
During the delegate session, which was held Aug. 24 in Indianapolis and included representatives of county Farm Bureaus from across the state, the delegates also reaffirmed the organization’s commitment to supporting both crop and livestock farms of all sizes. They also added policy in support of keeping farm-specific data confidential.
“Annexation is becoming more and more of an issue across the state as cities and towns are trying to expand their tax base,” explained IFB President Don Villwock. “The property tax caps have limited their incomes, they’re struggling to pay for police and fire and some of their basic necessities, so they’re trying to expand their assessed valuation.
“One of the ways they’re doing that is annexing ag land, and we don’t think that’s right. We want to make sure our farmers have a fighting chance to say whether or not they want to be annexed.”
On the federal farm bill, the delegates reaffirmed their support for doing away with all direct payments, using the dollars saved to improve the crop insurance program.
“I think Indiana and Midwestern farmers think it’s time for direct payments to go away, but we also reinforced that those dollar savings should shore up our crop insurance program,” Villwock said. “That’s very critical as we’re in the final hours of trying to pass a farm bill before the end of September.”
On the topic of data sharing, which is becoming a major issue for farmers, delegates voted to recommend changes to the American Farm Bureau Federation policy in support of legislation that would treat all farm-specific data as private property that is controlled by the farm owner/operator.
“Farmers are concerned about who owns their data,” Villwock explained. Data on many aspects of agriculture are now shared with fertilizer dealers and seed dealers, and farmers don’t have a major problem with that, he said. “If they want to use it to help fine-tune our operations, I think farmers appreciate that.
“But they’re more concerned about how that national data, the collection or aggregation of all farmers’ data, could be used by these big companies, could potentially be sold to other entities. Who controls that data? I think that’s going to be more and more of an issue and what our delegates did today is indicate that they want us to help them protect that data,” he said.
Another reason why this has become such a hot issue is that earlier this year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released personal information about thousands of livestock and poultry farmers and ranchers in 29 states in response to requests from three environmental organizations. The massive data release contained tens of thousands of lines in spreadsheets often including home phone numbers, home emails, employee contact information, home addresses and in some cases personal notes about the families.