2019 Legislative Priorities: seeking to strengthen rural Indiana

Strengthening rural Indiana is the goal of some of the policy positions identified as priorities by the Indiana Farm Bureau board of directors for the 2019 legislative session.

Incentivize rural revitalization

Because rural communities are facing issues such as population loss and economic development challenges, INFB director of public policy Katrina Hall said there is a huge need for action this legislative session.

“If we want to see improvements to quality of life in small towns and rural parts of our state, we have to identify ways to provide more economic opportunities for the people living there,” Hall said.

She added that regional development incentives could be one of the strategies. Hall participated in Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch’s Rural Advisory Taskforce where work was done to define problem areas and some rural-specific solutions in regards to rural revitalization.

While these discussions are occurring at the state level, there is still a need for local leadership to drive community-based initiatives. Hall said INFB will continue to be involved in those conversations that are so important to focusing rural areas on community development. 

Expand broadband deployment

INFB members have done an excellent job of explaining the need for high-speed internet access during past legislative sessions. This year, the issue has gained a lot of positive momentum. Randy Kron, INFB president, outlined the progress in the November edition of The Hoosier Farmer.

The state has hired Scott Rudd, former town manager and economic development director for the town of Nashville, Indiana, to serve as the director of broadband opportunities in the Office of the Lieutenant Governor. Purdue University released a report showing how expanding broadband access would have a large economic value. Additionally, Gov. Eric Holcomb’s Next Level Connections infrastructure plan was announced with a $100 million commitment to bring access to unserved and underserved areas.

While visiting legislators at the Statehouse this year, INFB members will emphasize the need for broadband access to rural, unserved areas in Indiana.

Increase rural school funding

INFB also will work this year to secure more school funding in rural schools and for programs such as FFA and agricultural career and technical education. Since this session is a budget year in the General Assembly, the time to secure funding for those programs is now.

“The future of agriculture and rural communities lies with young people,” Hall said. “Students should have the chance to discover all of the opportunities available to them in the agricultural industry.”