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Indiana Farm Bureau members advocated for agriculture during the legislative session

Indiana Farm Bureau members advocated for several issues important to Hoosier farmers and rural communities despite COVID-related challenges this legislative session, according to INFB President Randy Kron.

“I want to give a big thank to our members because they did a lot of meetings virtually with legislators, talking about the issues, and made the very best of the legislative session,” he says. “We’re a grassroots organization and it was more of a challenge this year, but our members stepped up.”

Andy Tauer, executive director of public policy, says the virtual setting allowed more members to connect with legislators this year.   

“We were able to engage some new members in virtual statehouse visits who maybe weren’t able to spend an entire day with us in the past and drive to Indianapolis to meet with legislators,” he says. “I think that was one of the highlights—we were able to engage more of our membership than we may have in a traditional session.”

Kron tells Brownfield expanding rural broadband to unserved and underserved Hoosiers was the organization’s top priority.

“There were several (broadband-related) bills that passed and part of that in the budget included $250 million in appropriation for the Next Level Connection Broadband grants,” he says. “That was a huge victory—it almost exceeded our expectations. I think legislators and the governor realized how important broadband is in these rural communities if we’re going to have the quality of life that our city friends have.”

Other related bills included SEA 377, which provides an additional $50,000 to a county if it achieves broadband internet connectivity for at least 90 percent of the county before 2026; HEA 1449, which requires projects that are eligible for a Rural Broadband Grant to provide speeds of at least 100 megabits per second (mbps) download and 10mbps upload; SEA 359, which requires the Indiana Department of Transportation to create a broadband corridor program to manage the location, installation, and maintenance of broadband infrastructure; and SEA 352, which requires the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs to prioritize broadband funding in underserved areas.

Kron says the pandemic has highlighted the critical need for broadband connectivity and the necessary speeds to properly use the technology.   

Tauer says another priority was to improve transparency and functionality of the Indiana Grain Buyers and Warehouse Licensing Agency.

“We feel like this will provide more certainty to our farmers when they deliver grain to a licensed elevator that the elevator is in good standing and that the agency then has the tools it needs to work with those licensees that might be struggling,” he says. “We’re pleased with how that bill ended up for our members.”

INFB also advocated for budget items including $363,000 per year which qualifies for a 50-50 match from the federal government for 10 meat inspectors. Funding for career and technical education classes was restored to previous levels.

Other bills supported by INFB included: SEA 303, which redefines gasohol, adjusts Reid vapor levels, and provides clarity as to what blends of ethanol can be sold in the state; SEA 373, which creates a working group of ag, forestry, and technical experts to make recommendations regarding a state carbon market program; SEA 389, which provides protection for regulations of ephemeral streams and clarifies farmers’ ability to repair and maintain tile drains; and  HEA 1150, which limits the Indiana Department of Revenue to one year to assess a civil penalty for an oversize or overweight load violation.

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Audio: Randy Kron and Andy Tauer

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