The 2023 Indiana General Assembly has officially made it to the halfway point of the legislative session, and there is no shortage of bills or issues that could impact Indiana Farm Bureau and its members.
As is usual during a long budget session, the financial requests are still the top discussion point at the Statehouse.
The governor’s budget was heard on Feb. 9, and the financial requests are on track from state agencies, including the Indiana State Department of Agriculture, Indiana Board of Animal Health and Purdue Extension. However, a lot of those fiscal decisions depend on the upcoming April revenue forecasts heading into the last few weeks of session.
“We’re cautiously optimistic about those requests as we’re meeting with House Ways and Means,” said Katrina Hall, INFB senior director of policy strategy and advocacy. “I think we’ve gotten off to a good start. On most of our issues, the General Assembly has been open to our suggestions.”
One of those suggestions is keeping rural Indiana viable by focusing on improved public health. INFB supports the budget requests of the Governor’s Public Health Commission and Senate Bill 4 to provide more uniformity for trauma care and emergency medical services across the state. It tries to level the playing field in terms of public health dollars spent per capita, so rural communities would benefit the most.
Rep. Kendell Culp’s bill on inventory of lost farmland unanimously passed third reading in the House and will now move to the Senate for consideration. This would direct ISDA to conduct an inventory of all farmland lost in Indiana over the past decade and to identify the primary cause of the farmland reduction. INFB supports this bill as a part of its priority to ensure food security.
“We’ve had a lot of positive movement so far with the priorities we’ve laid out,” said Jeff Cummins, INFB director of state government relations. “With a few bills, we have identified several concerns, largely from a fiscal standpoint, but we’ve spoken to legislators and are working to address those.”
On Feb. 6, several INFB members and staff provided testimony opposing SB 451, dealing with a carbon sequestration pilot project that was defeated last year because of the lack of interest in landowner property rights and compensation. At press time, INFB is attempting to find some compromise to ensure property rights protections are in the language.
“Whatever the outcome of this bill, our members should be prepared to take action,” said Cummins. “We’ll keep our eyes on it if it moves through to the House, but we may still need help from our grassroots on this one.”
On the tax front, there are several bills trying to rein in tax increment financing, one of them being House Bill 1085, which INFB supports. There has been a lot of discussion about how much revenue is being pulled away from local government.
INFB also is heavily involved in the property tax discussions, including House Bill 1499, which is the vehicle for whatever homeowner relief the General Assembly decides on. INFB will remain involved to ensure the burden doesn’t shift to farmland or personal property taxes.
“We’ve had good participation from our members, but we could always use more,” said Randy Kron, INFB president. “Member engagement at a local level and at the Statehouse is crucial to ensure our voices are heard when legislation is created. If you want to tell your story, come to the Statehouse or reach out to your elected representatives. They want to hear from you.”