Grain indemnity changes pass both House and Senate

Companion bills that will make important changes to the grain indemnity program have passed both the Indiana House and Senate on unanimous votes.

HB 1237, authored by Rep. Don Lehe (R-Brookston), and SB 476, authored by Sen. Phil Boots (R-Crawfordsville), contain the same major provisions but need some additional work to ensure that all of the language is in agreement.

“The language in the bills makes necessary fixes to the grain indemnity program to provide more notice to farmers and rectify problems caused by lack of notice of coverage and inconsistent implementation of the existing law,” said Justin Schneider, INFB state government relations director.

To ensure that new-crop contract periods are covered, the bills provide coverage under the grain indemnity fund for 15 months after delivery of the grain. Additionally, the list for who has opted out of coverage will be reset as of July 1, 2015, because of the failure of the Indiana Grain Indemnity Corporation to provide statutorily required notice to those who had previously requested a refund of their premiums.

There also will be provisions for retroactive payments for claims arising since October 2014 due to lack of notice about the coverage period under the fund. 

Other bills being followed by Farm Bureau:

HB 1001, the budget bill. The current version includes funding for equitable K-12 education opportunities, State Fair Coliseum debt, Purdue University infrastructure and research, and a framework to eliminate food deserts – all specific budget priorities identified by Farm Bureau. But for other needs, such as funding for Indiana Grown, the FFA Center at Trafalgar and resources at Purdue for a state-wide Nutrient Management/Soil Health Strategy, “We won’t know if any of that is feasible until the April revenue forecast,” Schneider said.

HB 1494, confined feeding. Schneider said the bill “was supposed to be an easy bill making minor tweaks to existing law so that it reflects current practice.” It would also make the disclosure of previous violations for new applications more efficient for the agency and more suitable for the structure of today’s farms.

“But it got caught up in general opposition to large livestock farms and in stories about past violations and bad practices by a few farms,” Schneider said. “Farmers cannot take for granted that their legislators understand current farming practices and the lengths that farmers go to be good stewards.  It’s time to invite legislators out to see what happens on a farm and to hear that farmers expect bad actors to be held accountable.” he added.

SB 309, renewable energy. This bill became less controversial after it was amended to provide a 30-year recovery period for existing net metering customers while ending net metering for all others in 2032. “We support net metering, but we see this bill as an opportunity to put in place a structure to support larger, on-farm energy projects,” Schneider said.

Farm Bureau is continuing to work with legislators and the investor-owned utilities to identify mechanisms that will allow farmers to move away from net metering and into programs where they can sell energy produced from solar, wind or biomass in excess of 1 megawatt into the grid.