[r63] Promoting our Hoosier homegrown agriculture

Posted by: Zach Weismiller  | Friday, March 21, 2014

Now that session has come to an end, I believe it is important to keep you informed of the new laws that we have passed and how they will affect you. Over the next few weeks, I plan to cover a variety of topics ranging from criminal code revision to public health. This week, I would like to focus on our efforts to promote our Hoosier homegrown agriculture. 

Although much of the media’s attention was devoted to the divisive issues this session, in reality, we passed a lot of good, common-sense legislation with the support of Democrats and Republicans alike. An example of this is House Enrolled Act (HEA) 1046, to which I served as a co-author. This legislation was passed unanimously by both chambers and permits a person to receive a 100 percent property tax deduction against the assessed value of a heritage barn given that the barn meets four specific criteria. 

These criteria are: that the barn was constructed before 1950; that it retains sufficient integrity of design, materials and construction to clearly identify the building as a barn; that it is not being used for agricultural purposes in the operation of an agricultural enterprise; and that it is not being used for business purposes.

The Office of Tourism and Development will now also promote these heritage barns through print media, electronic media and other hospitality opportunities. Heritage barns are part of our cultural heritage, and providing a property tax deduction on these structures will ensure that they remain a part of our state’s agricultural landscape.

Senate Enrolled Act (SEA) 114 also promotes our rich heritage by allowing students an excused absence from school if they participate in State Fair activities. With some school start dates getting bumped up, we thought that it was only fair to allow 4-H participants and their families up to five excused absences for participating in the State Fair. The 4-H program has been a part of Indiana for a long time, and this will afford students a significant educational opportunity that can’t be replicated in the classroom.  

This is not the only legislation we passed this session dealing with the State Fair. Indiana was previously one of only two states that prohibited alcohol sales at the State Fair until we passed legislation allowing it to happen this year. It is important to note that the way that we addressed this issue maintains a balance between those who want that option and those who would rather not be around alcohol. Hoosier breweries and wineries will be able to showcase their products in age-restricted areas.

I was present when the Executive Director of the State Fair Commission, who is in favor of this measure, testified in front of the House Public Policy Committee. She explained that they envisioned a beer garden setting, “similar to Disney,” that would ensure a safe, controlled and respectable environment. No alcohol would be brought in or taken out, and there would be controlled entrances and exits so that only those 21 and older are admitted. Ultimately, the State Fair is about Indiana’s agricultural products, and this will simply allow Indiana small business breweries and wineries to grow and market their product.  

Many times, when people think about laws, they think of them as being restrictive. However, as you can see, we passed a great deal of legislation this year to give Hoosiers more rights. Like I said, over the next few weeks, I will be discussing a variety of those bills, but if there is specific legislation that you would like to learn more about, please do not hesitate to contact me. I can be reached via email at h63@iga.in.gov or by phone at 317-232-9620. In addition to addressing your concerns directly, I may even include it one of my columns, so stay tuned!