State budget: Indiana budget offers resources for Hoosier agriculture

The close of this legislative session brings a brand new Indiana budget, and with it many new and improved resources for Indiana agriculture. 

The public policy team at Indiana Farm Bureau focused much attention on HEA 1001 in hopes of increasing opportunities for agriculture and rural Indiana this legislative year.

HEA 1001 was primarily the work of Rep. Tim Brown, R-Crawfordsville, and Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville. Based on the backdrop of a stable but relatively flat revenue forecast, the bill contains funding to address the following priorities identified by Farm Bureau:

  • Equitable K-12 education opportunities.
  • State fair operating revenue, lease payments and repair and rehabilitation, in the form of $17 million.
  • Purdue University infrastructure and research, including bonding authority for $69 million for a designated Agricultural and Biological Engineering building for students.

Farm Bureau also supported the following funding requests, which were granted with the passing of this bill:

  • The Kankakee River Basin Commission in northwestern Indiana will receive $600,000 for repair and maintenance of the Kankakee River system.
  • Indiana Grown, an organization that helps Hoosier farmers, producers and processors market their products while educating consumers on the importance of buying local, will receive $250,000 per year to expand their services.
  • The Department of Natural Resources will maintain its $200,000 per year to continue monitoring local water resources.

School funding was increased and the formula distributing it among schools also was tweaked for the first time in several years.  Those changes impact schools differently depending on their population of disadvantaged students.  Schools received some accounting flexibility in HEA 1009 that allows pooling of dollars from all property tax funds except debt service.  It also puts in place levy controls for funds that can be consolidated after collection, and it helps schools with their cash flow and relaxes restrictions on how some of their property tax dollars can be spent. 

School officials have been asking for this type of flexibility for many years.  INFB supported but cautioned legislators that this was not the solution for schools experiencing funding losses from the tuition support formula.

“We were pleased with the financial support provided by the state to address issues that are important to Farm Bureau members,” noted Katrina Hall, director of public policy. “While not all Farm Bureau-supported requests made the final cut, the increased commitment to agriculture in a time of relatively flat revenue shows the importance of agriculture to the state.”