CFO rules, food deserts: some important issues will have to wait

While this was a successful session for Indiana Farm Bureau, a few important bills important to the organization did not pass the legislature.

Although the regulation of confined feeding operations was not a priority issue identified by the board for 2017, the issue took on added importance because of opposition to livestock operations that appeared during discussions about HB 1494, a bill that until then was not expected to be controversial.

The bill was designed to update terminology and make definitions consistent with rules and statutes for confined feeding operations. In addition, the bill would have put current practice regarding permit amendments and notifications into statute. Most important, it made disclosure requirements regarding past violations easier to implement for farmers and less burdensome on IDEM.

While HB 1494 passed the House, it did not get a hearing in the Senate.

“This bill should have been an easy fix, making minor tweaks to existing law,” said INFB’s Justin Schneider. “It got caught up in general opposition to large livestock farms and in stories about past violations and bad practices by a few farmers.

“Livestock farmers should take notice. What any one farmer does directly impacts how others view you,” he added.

A priority issue for INFB was support for eliminating food deserts, something that was supported by delegates during INFB’s 2016 delegate session. 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.  INFB carried the rural voice in food access issues and will continue to monitor strategies to eliminate food deserts throughout the state’s rural areas.

The budget bill, HEA 1001, originally contained language supporting high tunnel greenhouses for the promotion of year-round agricultural production in urban areas. That language did not make the final budget bill.  SB 277 also failed in session. It would have established a pilot program, administered by the Indiana Housing & Community Development Authority, which would assist businesses and organizations by providing fresh or unprocessed food in a food desert. 

Among the other failed measures was HB 1089, which would have prohibited a local government body from regulating the sale or removal of merchantable timber from private property.  Finally, SB 381, which would have addressed annexation, died in a Senate committee. (For more information on this bill, see Annexation story.)

“Farm Bureau will continue to work with legislators to ensure those issues which failed this session and are still needed will get the attention they deserve during the 2018 session,” said Schneider.