Indiana Farm Bureau
August 30, 2011
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Farm bill, taxes and local government structure debated by IFB delegates
Local government structure, property taxes and fire territories were among the many issues that Indiana Farm Bureau delegates discussed during the annual policy session, but it was federal farm funding that held center stage.
During the Aug. 27 session, delegates took an unusually long look at farm program funding because all indications are that the debate over the next farm bill is going to be extremely unusual.
“Because of the budget catastrophe in Washington, the farm bill policy process has been expedited,” said IFB President Don Villwock, explaining that the super committee – the -member group of U.S. representatives and senators responsible for finding $1.5 trillion in budget savings for the next 10 years – could have an enormous effect on the farm program.
“There are some who believe that the super committee might actually write the farm bill, or at least allocate the dollars, before the Christmas break,” he said. “It’s critical that we get our ideas to Washington this fall.”
Because of this accelerated schedule – and the certainty that there will be less money in the farm program budget – IFB delegates voted to prioritize farm program budget areas rather than debate specific programs. IFB’s farm program priorities are:
- Risk management/crop insurance. “This is the no. 1 priority of IFB delegates – and that’s something I’ve heard across the state,” Villwock said. 2011 shows how important a viable risk management program is to farmers and their credit institutions, he noted.
- Research. Delegates ranked this budget area so high because research dollars have long been dwindling even as research has become more essential. “As we think about trying to feed a 9 billion-population planet, we’ll need to increase production by almost 70 percent. That won’t happen without research,” Villwock explained.
- Rural development.
- Direct payments. These are no longer a high priority for Indiana farmers, Villwock said, because for most, these payments no longer constitute a significant portion of their income.
The delegates’ willingness to prioritize farm spending demonstrated something he’s noticed across the state, Villwock said: “Indiana farmers realize that we need to get deficit reduction as a priority, we need to get our finances in the shape, we need to balance the budget, and agriculture’s willing to do its fair share.
“But I think the key word is ‘fair.’ I think we’re willing to take some cuts as long as they’re fair.”
Other key policy decisions taken by the delegates include:
Local government mergers: Reacting to recent efforts by the General Assembly and some counties to consolidate townships or city-county governments, delegates added language saying that consolidation “should occur only after the voters of incorporated and unincorporated areas have independently approved a comprehensive plan.”
Fire territories: Delegates greatly expanded the policy’s language addressing fire territories, adding language saying that prior obligations from participating units “cannot be spread to taxpayers of the other participating units.”
Indiana State Fair: By a close vote, delegates approved language in support of the sale of beer and wine during the state fair so long as it was sold in a “controlled environment” and emphasized Indiana-made products.
Property taxes: Delegates maintained IFB’s stance in favor of “permanent and substantial measures to free Hoosiers from the burden of property taxes” but added language supporting the “elimination or reduction of the supplemental homestead deduction.”