Indiana has always been known for our agriculture. Hoosier farmers work tirelessly to ensure they are providing the state and nation with high quality products. In fact, our state’s economy relies heavily on the agriculture industry, and Hoosier farmers play a vital role in that. I am proud of their hard work and dedication to ensuring that this industry remains strong in our state.
The Indiana General Assembly continues to pass legislation with the best interest of Hoosier farmers in mind, and I was pleased to support these measures this session. These bills will not only keep Indiana agriculture among the best in the nation, but also work to support Hoosier farmers as well.
House Bill (HB) 1170 is the product of a constituent voicing her concerns over how much food restaurants and local schools were throwing away on a daily basis. Concerned by this amount of waste, she wanted to find ways to recycle this wasted food. This woman decided to reach out to STIMULUS Engineering Services, Inc. to see if they could create swine feed out of the unused food. Unfortunately, they discovered a discrepancy between federal law and state law, so HB 1170’s intent is to allow the federally permissible practice of recycling food into dry, pelletized swine feed to also be permissible under state law.
Another piece of legislation that benefits Hoosier farmers is HB 1549. This legislation raises the cap on the Grain Indemnity Fund allowing farmers’ crops to have additional coverage. Currently, there is roughly $14 million in the fund. While this model has been sufficient in the past, due to the nature of the agricultural economy, the funds could be depleted from a single failure, which is why the proposed legislation would increase the amount the fund would hold.
Senate Bill (SB) 436 deals with property tax issues, but it specifically addresses the potential of a massive increase in taxes on farm land, which would hit Hoosier farmers hard. As a member of Ways and Means, I was able to hear testimony from a number of land owners around the state and how SB 436 would positively affect their farm operations.
The bill offers substantial tax relief to farmers by setting the agricultural base rate as the lesser of either the previous year’s base rate or the assessed value gross quotient, which is based on personal income growth. Without this base rate freeze, the rate would climb from $2050 for taxes payable in 2015 to $2420 to pay in 2016 and $2770 to pay in 2017. This works out to be a 25 percent increase in the base rate over two years.
SB 436 also promotes a fair and equitable understanding of the actual value of a property. In order to help appeal to the counties, this legislation also includes language that will exempt any property that has not been occupied for more than 24 months from being taken into consideration in appraisals of like properties. The legislation will also offer tax breaks to those taxpayers who have been negatively affected by a land reclassification. This legislation also urges the legislative council to assign the issue of alternative means of agricultural land assessment to a study committee.
Indiana’s agriculture industry is the backbone of our economy, so I am proud to support measures that will relieve farmers of unnecessary tax increases. This will lessen the burden so farms can continue to prosper for years to come.