Rep. Davisson: Supporting Hoosier agriculture

Posted by: Emily Gaylord  | Thursday, March 17, 2016

Indiana’s agriculture and related businesses contribute $44.1 billion to the Hoosier economy and support 190,000 jobs. Almost 19.5 million acres are dedicated to farms and forests throughout our state, producing $4.7 billion in agricultural exports. Because of this significant impact, the General Assembly must support this industry and keep our economy moving forward.

As a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, I recently voted in favor of a proposal that would provide Hoosier farmers some tax relief by changing the current assessment formula to limit annual increases in assessed land values. In the past eight years, Hoosier farmers faced a 47 percent increase in farmland property tax rates due to the current assessment formula.

Senate Enrolled Act (SEA) 308 would provide immediate farmland property tax relief to Hoosier farmers by freezing the farmland assessment base rate at $2,050 per acre. This proposal would also cap the annual increase at 1 percent, helping to ease the sharp increases in taxes on agricultural land that has occurred over the years.

This legislation also provides clarity regarding the definition of Heritage Barns because in Indiana, property taxes are waived on certain historic barns. The current tax deduction description for a Heritage Barn does not specify how old the barn must be in order to qualify. SEA 308 statutorily defines a Heritage Barn as one built before 1950 and eliminates the current provision stating Heritage Barns may not be used for business or agricultural purposes.

Another measure that I supported addresses soil and water conservation districts. Indiana currently has 92 districts — one in every county. These districts are crucial in conserving land, water, forest and wildlife that encompass Indiana’s 23 million acres. The Clean Water Indiana Program can designate up to $10,000 in matching state funds to support conservation districts. SEA 238 would allow two or more conservation districts to consolidate and be able to continue receiving the same amount of matching state funds.

This legislation also allocates a portion of the revenue that’s generated by the cigarette tax, which is currently appropriated to the Department of Natural Resources, to the State Department of Agriculture for the purposes of soil conservation.

House District 73 is home to many farms and agricultural businesses. The jobs, goods and services provided by this industry are vital to our economy. I remain committed to supporting Hoosier farms.

For questions or input, please contact me at 317-232-9753 or h73@iga.in.gov.

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Rep. Davisson (R-Salem) represents parts of Washington, Orange, Lawrence, Jackson, Clark and Harrison counties.