Indiana Farm Bureau members had much to celebrate at the close of the 2018 session of the General Assembly. INFB achieved success on two of its priority issues: protecting livestock and poultry operations and expanding rural broadband.
Sometimes, success is achieved by playing defense. Two bills, SB316 and HB1369, were introduced that would have placed unreasonable regulations on livestock farms. Neither bill received a hearing during session. Many legislators made trips to livestock operations in Indiana prior to the 2018 session, and these educational opportunities paid off. Farm Bureau members stepped up and as a result, the livestock industry avoided days of negative pushback in the halls of the Statehouse, according to INFB’s public policy team.
INFB’s top priority this year focused on the expansion of reliable, sufficient broadband internet access for Indiana’s unserved areas. House Enrolled Act 1065 authorizes the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission to study broadband expansion and tools that may be used to assist in its deployment. Importantly, HEA1065 establishes a grant program for broadband deployment administered by the Office of Community and Rural Affairs.
“The passing of HEA1065 is a constructive step toward tackling the problem many Hoosiers face when it comes to getting adequate internet access, but more work will be needed by policymakers and service providers to meet the needs of rural Indiana,” said Randy Kron, INFB president. “The deployment of broadband will help Indiana’s farmers keep up with online permitting processes and the task of moving and uploading farm data from modern agricultural equipment.
“Rural communities as a whole also will benefit as broadband internet has become a necessity for small businesses, and schools that are shifting to web-based learning and online testing,” Kron added.
Early in the session, INFB members were instrumental in stopping HB1005’s momentum. HB1005 would have forced more than 300 townships with a population of less than 1,200 people to merge with a neighboring township, which would have affected nearly a third of Indiana’s land area. INFB had numerous concerns about the bill including the likelihood that tax rates for lower rate townships would have increased when common rates were set in the restructured townships. The bill died when it was not called in the House for a final vote.
“Our members’ advocacy efforts were vital to stopping this bill, which was a priority for the Indiana Chamber of Commerce and the House majority caucus,” said Katrina Hall, INFB director of public policy. “Our members voiced their concerns with the bill to legislators at the Statehouse, during third house meetings and via email.”
A priority issue that did not pass the General Assembly was to consistently limit annexation remonstrance waivers. INFB members were a critical factor in keeping the language in the final version of HB1104 after there were efforts to remove provisions that had previously passed the House and Senate. The final version of HB1104 passed the Senate, but it was one of a handful of bills that were not brought to a vote in the House before the legislature was statutorily required to adjourn at midnight on March 14.
During the 2018 session, a total of 477 INFB members from 85 counties visited the Statehouse to meet with their elected officials. There also were 111 FFA students who joined 19 county Farm Bureaus to speak with legislators. Members shared their stories and experiences as they related to bills that would impact agriculture.
“These great successes at the Statehouse would not be possible without our members’ time and effort. I appreciate all the hard work they put in during session to positively impact agriculture,” said Kron. “Our members’ commitment to be involved in the process by visiting the Statehouse, attending third house meetings and inviting legislators to their farms is invaluable.”