Indiana Farm Bureau president says farm bill and labor are top of mind for growers

Many farmers are discussing priorities with lawmakers during the August recess.

Indiana Farm Bureau President Randy Kron recently hosted Senator Todd Young on his farm in southern Indiana. He says the 2023 Farm Bill was top of mind for many growers in attendance.  

“Farmers were interested in the timetable of the legislation and when it will be completed. We all know with budget issues, there are a lot of questions surrounding the farm bill. It seems like lawmakers are still hopeful there will be a farm bill by the end of the year, but there are a lot of issues around it including getting floor time,” he says. “Timing and getting the (farm bill) done and having certainty and then, within that, crop insurance was probably one of the major issues that came up. Priorities included making sure we still have crop insurance as well as not having cross compliance with some other conservation practices. A lot of farmers talked about their farms and what they are doing to take care of the land. I think it’s great to have a senator hear first-hand what farmers are doing.”

Labor is another issue affecting the agriculture industry. Kron says farmers rely on the H2A guest worker program.

“There were several farmers from Knox County at the shop talk and that’s melon country and H2A labor is critical for them to plant and harvest their crop. There was a lot of discussion about the labor issue. It seems to get tied up in the immigration issue. What we need to do is ensure that labor is a separate issue, not tied into immigration. Having a reliable workforce is going to be critical to be able to get the crops planted and harvested. Also, there was concern the wage rate had gone up considerably in the last couple of years. It’s especially a concern in southern Indiana, with Kentucky’s H2A adverse effect wage rates being $3 an hour cheaper than what it is in Indiana. There’s concern from the farmers that they compete against each other, and that gives them a big disadvantage when they’re paying a lot more for labor.”

Farmers are also looking for regulatory certainty. Some examples, he says, are Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) and Proposition 12. 

“There was a good ruling from the Supreme Court, but now we’re hearing from the administration that it’s going to make very minor tweaks to the current WOTUS rule. Farmers had conversations of what can Congress do and (the rule) is probably going to end up back in the court system again, which is disappointing because it’s been a rollercoaster. The rules keep changing with every administration and that’s not fair to the farmers. Farmers take care of their land, and they understand if they don’t they won’t be in business for very long. They just need a consistent set of rules,” he says. “The other topic that came up was Prop 12. Some livestock producers are concerned about how California can mandate how we raise pigs here in Indiana. And since they consume 12-13% of the nation’s pork, it’s a real issue. Farmers are concerned about what would happen if another state has another set of rules. We could end up with 50 different sets of rules on how to raise livestock. We need one set of rules across the country.”

Brownfield interviewed Kron recently during the Indiana State Fair.

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