Public Policy Dispatch:

21 Feb, 2014

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February 21, 2014

Volume 14 : Issue 8

COUNTY FARM BUREAU VISITS TO THE STATEHOUSE   Visits to the Statehouse by Farm Bureau members are an important component to successful efforts by the Farm Bureau staff.  If your county has not scheduled a visit, we ask you to do so soon. Additionally, we will be hosting conference calls every Friday during the legislative session from noon to 1:00 p.m.  If you have any questions about scheduling your county’s visit or would like more information regarding conference calls, please contact Katrina Hall at khall@infb.org or 317-727-3654.

The following counties have scheduled visits to the Statehouse next week.

Tuesday, Feb. 25 – Benton and Hancock.
Wednesday, Feb. 26 – Cass.
Thursday, Feb. 27 – ElkhartLawrencePorterSwitzerland and Titpon.

Thank you to BooneBlackfordClarkHendricksHenryJenningsLaPorteMadisonMarshallOrangeOwenPerryRushScott and Vermillion counties for very successful visits this week.

STATE NEWS

UPDATE ON REP. NIEZGODSKI   After being injured in a car accident last week, Rep. David Niezgodski (D-South Bend) returned to the House of Representatives on Tuesday. During Tuesday’s House session, Niezgodski thanked fellow legislators for their support during the difficult time. Indiana Farm Bureau wishes Rep. Niezgodski and his daughter a speedy recovery.

URGENT!  CONTACTS NEEDED NOW   Action Alerts have been issued for phone contacts that are needed from Farm Bureau leaders and members on three time-sensitive, critical issues. These urgent messages need to be delivered before the days shown next week:

  • Support a solution to soil productivity factor problem – all House members before Tuesday.
  • Reject the single county executive for Allen County – members of the Senate Elections Committee before Tuesday.
  • Support measures to rein in annexation – members of the House Government and Regulatory Reform Committee before Monday

ACTIVE LINK TO SURVIVING BILLS BEING FOLLOWED BY INDIANA FARM BUREAU   Members wishing more details about legislation being followed by Farm Bureau Statehouse lobbyists see IFB Tracking Report.

MAP-21 FIX TO BE HEARD MONDAY   The Senate Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee, which is chaired by Sen. Carlin Yoder (R-Middlebury), will hear HB 1219-farm products and farm vehicles, on Monday. Rep. Bob Cherry (R-Greenfield) authored the bill to create consistency with the federal MAP-21 definitions and exemptions given to farmers. HB 1219 clearly defines vehicles that are eligible for farm plates. Indiana Farm Bureau policy supports enforcement of laws that apply to the correct purchase and application of farm truck plates.

MOST TAX ISSUES STILL WAITING FOR FINAL COMMITTEE ACTION   As the appropriate mix of new tax reform measures is under consideration, most tax issues are still waiting for final committee action in each house. On Monday, the Senate Tax & Fiscal Committee chaired by the bill’s Senate sponsor, Sen. Brandt Hershman (R-Buck Creek), heard HB 1001. The primary feature of HB 1001 (authored by Rep. Eric Turner, R-Cicero) is a county option to eliminate personal property tax for new equipment. Katrina Hall testified in favor of the “option” concept and suggested that a combination of SB 1 and HB 1001 would be an opportunity to make some progress at starting to chip away at personal property tax.

On Thursday, HB 1234, authored by Rep. Jeff Thompson (R-Lizton), was presented by its Senate sponsor, Sen. Pete Miller (R-Avon). The Senate Appropriations Committee changed some language about deductions for geothermal devices and deleted a 911 funding pilot for Hendricks County, but moved the rest of the bill, which included provisions supported by Katrina Hall. These taxpayer-friendly provisions include an additional week to pay property tax bills, prohibiting county employees from serving on the Property Tax Board of Appeals and professional standards of conduct for assessors and tax representatives in addition to the current requirement to have a Level III designation.

TIF REFORMS MOVING IN THE HOUSE   Late into the evening on Thursday, a long list of tax bills was dissected in the House Ways & Means Committee. Katrina Hall of Indiana Farm Bureau testified in favor of SB 118, which includes a long list of much needed reforms to the tax increment financing statute. Commonly known as “TIF,” tax increment financing can be a valuable economic development tool but in many cases it has been abused by local officials. TIF pulls assessed value and the associated tax away from units of government and redirects them to pay debt and other expenses associated with new infrastructure. With pressure from the tax caps, several cases of TIF dollars being used for other things have been revealed. SB 118, authored by Sen. Pete Miller (R-Avon) and sponsored in the House by Chairman, Rep. Tim Brown (R-Crawfordsville), includes a controversial provision that prohibits a virtual TIF which is being used in some places to fund expansion of broadband. Farm Bureau will be investigating this provision more to analyze its potential.

SENATE ENVIRONMENTAL AFFAIRS COMMITTEE SUPPORTS STREAMLING PERMITTING   By a vote of 9-0, HB 1217 (authored by Rep. Steve Davisson, R-Salem), moved to the full Senate for a vote. The bill, which was sponsored by Sen. Carlin Yoder (R-Middlebury), requires DNR and IDEM to work together to improve efficiency in permitting for projects that require permits from both agencies. Farm Bureau’s Justin Schneider testified in support of the measure.

INDIANA-GROWN FARM PRODUCTS GET SUPPORT IN THE SENTATE   The Senate passed HB 1039 (Rep. Matt Lehman, R-Berne) on second reading. Farm Bureau’s Justin Schneider testified in support of the bill in the Senate Ag & Natural Resources Committee. The measure, sponsored by Sen. Ron Grooms (R-Jeffersonville), creates an initiative to market and promote Indiana-grown farm products to users such as residents, retailers, restaurants, grocery stores and farmers’ markets.

LEVEE BILL MOVES IN SENATE   In an effort to bring levees that are operating under expired law into compliance with current statutory requirements, the Senate passed HB 1053 on second reading. The bill was presented by author Rep. Mark Messmer (R-Jasper) and was sponsored in the Senate by Ag Committee Chair Sen. Carlin Yoder (R-Middlebury). Farm Bureau has been a strong supporter of addressing issues with levee oversight, and Justin Schneider testified about Farm Bureau’s efforts to help farmers address levee challenges.

CFO BILL MOVES IN HOUSE   The House Environmental Affairs Committee adopted SB 359 (Sen. Ed Charbonneau, R-Valparaiso). The bill, which has been supported by Farm Bureau following efforts to work with IDEM to address confusion in requirements to submit documentation and permit renewals to IDEM, now moves to the House floor for consideration. It is likely that the bill will be amended on second reading to address notice issues for the construction of satellite manure storage structures.

AG TRESPASS BILL PASSES SECOND READING IN THE HOUSE   SB 101 (Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle) passed second reading in the House after members defeated an amendment introduced by Rep. Ed DeLaney (D-Indianapolis) that would have added the undefined qualifier “physical” to the term property damages. The bill adds causing property damage to an agricultural operation to the existing crime of institutional criminal mischief. Indiana farmers will not be required to post “no trespassing” signs to protect the production areas of their farms. If a trespasser commits an intentional act that causes property damage, it could result in additional penalties, depending on the amount of damage caused.

STATE POLICY ON AGRICULTURE PASSES SECOND READING IN THE HOUSE   SB 186 (Sen. Carlin Yoder, R-Middlebury), passed second reading in the House after members defeated an amendment introduced by Rep. Tom Saunders (R-Lewisville) that would have stripped out the second sentence of the bill.  That sentence states that the “Indiana Code shall be construed to protect the right of farmers to choose among all generally accepted farming and livestock production practices, including the use of ever changing technology.”

BILLS THAT HAVE PASSED BOTH CHAMBERS

HB 1013, Rep. Alan Morrison (R-Terre Haute), release of animal vet records.

HB 1300, Rep. Don Lehe (R-Brookston), dairy law clean-up bill. Passed with amendments.

HB 1350, Rep. Jim Baird (R-Greencastle), seed test must be completed within a 12-month period before distribution. Current law requires test to be performed within 9 months of distribution.

OTHER STATE NEWS

COUNTY FARM BUREAUS BEGIN MEETING WITH CANDIDATES   Farmers across the state will soon begin meeting with candidates for the U.S. House and Indiana General Assembly to find out more about their priorities and positions on agriculture policies. Of particular interest are the open seats in Indiana House Districts 11, 33, 48, 63, 78 and 85 and Indiana Senate Districts 6, 15, 27, 43 and 48. County Farm Bureau ELECT trustees in these areas are encouraged to interview and evaluate these candidates.

FEDERAL NEWS

CONGRESSIONAL TAX PROPOSALS WOULD COST AGRICULTURE $4.8 BILLION   Proposed changes to the tax code restricting the use of cash accounting by agricultural operations would reduce agriculture’s access to capital by as much as $12.1 billion over the next four years, according to a study released by Kennedy and Coe LLC and Farmers for Tax Fairness. See a full copy of the independent research firm Informa Economics’ report.

Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) announced that he will release a comprehensive tax reform proposal next week. Farm Bureau members are urged to contact their members of Congress and ask for their support of the following:

  • Maintaining the current cash accounting rules for farmers and ranchers.
  • Maintaining the $500,000 maximum threshold for Section 179 Small Business Expensing.
  • Moving forward to exclude business with $10 million of average gross receipts from UNICAP.

DEADLINE APPROACHING FOR APHIS COMMENT PERIOD ON DOW’S ENLIST TRAITS   The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has prepared an environmental impact statement on effects that may result from the potential approval of three petitions from Dow AgroSciences seeking a determination of non-regulated status of herbicide resistant corn and soybeans. APHIS recommends the Preferred Alternative as stated in the draft environmental impact statement is to deregulate all three Enlist corn and soybean traits.  Farm Bureau supports the APHIS recommendation.

Below are additional resources provided by Dow for individual members to submit comments by Feb. 24, 2014.

LIVESTOCK DISASTER AID TOP PRIORITY IN FARM BILL IMPLEMENTATION   President Obama and USDA Secretary Vilsack announced sign up for the farm bill’s disaster aid programs would begin by mid-April.  They also announced that the funding would be to farmers within 60 days after they sign up.

The 2014 farm bill reauthorizes the Livestock Indemnity Program, the Livestock Forage Program, the Emergency Livestock Assistance Program and the Tree Assistance Program. These programs will be retroactive for 2012 and 2013 and will extend through the life of the farm bill. Additionally, the legislation raises the benefit cap to $125,000 for a single producer and $250,000 for a married couple.

RESOURCES AVAILABLE TO ASSIST FARMERS UNDERSTAND THE NEW FARM BILL   The University of Illinois has announced a new farmdoc online webinar series for 2014, which begins on Feb. 27 and ends Mar. 31. The Agricultural Act of 2014, or farm bill, will be the focus of several of the webinars, including Feb. 27 – crop insurance and Mar. 5 – understanding the new commodity program.

All of the webinars are free but registration is required. See the complete webinar schedule.

FOOD PRICES, AG ECONOMY TIED TO PROPER LABOR REFORM   In conjunction with the #ifarmimmigration campaign, Farm Bureau released an updated labor study titled “Gauging the Farm Sector’s Sensitivity to Immigration Reform via Changes in Labor Costs and Availability.” The labor study’s results re-emphasize the need for immigration reform that includes an adjustment of status for our current workforce and a flexible, efficient guest worker program. See a copy of the press release.

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