Budget priorities for 2017-18 include equitable education funding

For more than a decade, the Indiana General Assembly has passed honestly balanced biennial (two-year) budgets, meaning the budget passed does not exceed revenues expected in that same time frame. This Hoosier brand of fiscal responsibility protects taxpayers by ensuring that the state does not spend beyond its means. It also helps maintain a surplus or operating balance that is needed so that the state does not have cash flow issues.

Crafting a biennial budget is difficult, however, because so many groups (Indiana Farm Bureau included) lobby hard for funding for their specific interests. Naturally, there are more requests than there is revenue, so it is important to be firm but realistic.

2017 Legislative priorities Advocating for Agriculture

Equitable K-12 opportunities

INFB state policy (Section 301.00) expresses support for a quality educational system that provides equal opportunities and resources for rural and urban schools and students. Understanding that schools across the state are hurting for money, some because of tax cap loss, the General Assembly will embark on the difficult task next year of determining school funding.

Throughout that process, INFB will be working to ensure that rural schools receive their fair share compared to their urban and suburban counterparts.

Purdue and the Indiana State Fair

INFB will be urging legislators to provide funding to help pay down debt on the Indiana Farmers Coliseum at the state fairgrounds. The organization will also be lobbying the General Assembly for funding for renovations at Purdue’s Heeke Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory in southern Indiana, and the construction of the Agriculture and Biological Engineering building on the West Lafayette campus.

Food deserts

A food desert is defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as a low-income area where a substantial number of residents have little or no access to a supermarket or large grocery store.

The USDA further clarifies that urban “low-access communities” exist where at least 500 people and/or at least 33 percent of the census tract's population reside more than one mile from a supermarket or large grocery store. The department extends that distance to more than ten miles when defining rural low-access communities.

Food deserts are a pressing issue in urban and rural areas alike, particularly for low-income families whose dollars do not go as far purchasing food at gas stations or convenience stores because of a lack of grocery stores nearby. Beyond the higher costs, those food options do not always include healthy fruits, vegetables and protein.

INFB will be working with Feeding Indiana’s Hungry and other groups to urge legislators to help develop a framework to eliminate food deserts.