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Indiana Agriculture Has Wins and Losses in General Assembly session

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Indiana Agriculture Has Wins and Losses in General Assembly session

Randy Kron

Indiana agriculture had some wins and losses in the just concluded session of the Indiana General Assembly. The big win was new funding for road and bridge repair. House Enrolled Act 1002 provides a framework for road funding that relies on user fees: increased fuel taxes, uniform registration fee increases, and the shift of the sales tax on gasoline to road funding.  “HEA 1002 is a truly historic bill,” stated Randy Kron, Indiana Farm Bureau President. “It provides $260 million this next year for local roads and bridges and over $6 billion in new money for state and local roads over the next seven years.” According to Kron, this was not an easy compromise, “No one wants to pay more taxes, and our General Assembly has shown that tax increases are not their way of normally doing business. In this instance, the tax increase was the responsible thing to do.”

Justin Schneider

Justin Schneider, with INFB’s public policy team, told HAT the final package puts more funds in the hands of local governments to address local road and bridge issues, “It is going to be incumbent on local government to tackle the most pressing issues first and from a farmer’s standpoint that is going to be local bridges.” It is estimated that over half of the bridges in the state are in need of repair or upgrading.

The other big win was in the state budget. Farm Bureau prioritized support for funding for equitable k-12 education, State Fair infrastructure, and the Purdue Agricultural and Biological Engineering building. In addition, Farm Bureau was able to help secure funding for the Indiana Grown program.  “These budget supported initiatives all provide capacity for Indiana to continue to showcase and grow our agricultural sector,” noted Schneider. “They are an investment in the future of agriculture and growth of the Indiana brand.”

Other key bills that passed this session included  HEA 1237, authored by Rep. Don Lehe (R-Brookston). It makes important changes to the grain buyers and warehouse licensing laws and to the grain indemnity fund. Farmers will now receive coverage under the grain indemnity fund for a period of 15 months after delivery of grain. Additionally, the list for who has opted-out of coverage will be reset as of July 1, 2015. There will also be provisions for retroactive payments for claims arising since Oct. 2014, due to lack of notice about the coverage period under the fund. Other clarifications in the law are that all grain sold to an Indiana-licensed grain buyer is covered.

Some of the losses for agriculture included: 

HB 1494 – CONFINED FEEDING PERMITTING, authored by Rep. Dave Wolkins (R-Warsaw), which offered to update terminology and make definitions consistent between rules and statutes for confined feeding operations. The bill also put current practice regarding permit amendments and notification into statute. Most important, it made disclosure requirements regarding past violations easier to implement for farmers and less burdensome on the agency.

SB 277, authored by Sen. Randy Head (R-Logansport), establishes a pilot program administered by the Indiana Housing & Community Development Authority to assist businesses and organizations in providing fresh or unprocessed foods in an underserved area, commonly referred to as a food desert.

Other bills that were passed and will now move to the Governor’s desk include:

HB 1082 – OVERRIDE VETO OF 2016 NO-MORE-STRINGENT BILL
The General Assembly passed an override of a veto issued last year by then-Gov. Mike Pence on HEA 1082, authored by Rep. Dave Wolkins (R-Warsaw). The bill requires that any rule that is more stringent than a corresponding regulation under federal law be delayed until the General Assembly has met and would have time to take action on the environmental rule before it becomes law.

HEA 1235 – REGULATION OF PROCESSED MANURE BASED FERTILIZER
In an effort to support the development of manure-based fertilizers that can be sold with a guaranteed analysis, the Office of the Indiana State Chemist sought a change to create a new category of regulated fertilizers. HEA 1235, authored by Rep. Don Lehe (R-Brookston), exempts processed fertilizers that are at least 75 percent manure from regulation as a commercial fertilizer and requires the state chemist to adopt rules.
HEA 1447 – OVERWEIGHT VEHICLES
HEA 1447, authored by Rep. Bill Friend (R-Macy), prohibits the BMV from issuing points for overweight violations and removes any points that were issued after Dec. 31, 2015. BMV is currently in the process of amending the rule to stop the issuance of points for overweight vehicles. It has been determined that points can unfairly punish drivers who had no actual knowledge of the load being overweight. Rather, the focus has been on ensuring that regular enforcement and fines are appropriately used to deter illegal behavior for hauling overweight loads. HEA 1447 also provides for a process for hauling timber, sawdust and wood chips in loads of up to 97,000 pounds.

SEA 294 – BOVINE TB TESTING COST-SHARE
SEA 294, authored by Sen. Jean Leising (R-Oldenburg), establishes a 50/50 cost share of bovine tuberculosis testing for each calendar year – 50 percent from the county council and 50 percent from the Indiana State Board of Animal Health.

HEA 1491 – ATVs & UTVs TO BE CLASSIFIED AS “FARM WAGONS”
HEA 1491, authored by Rep. Ed Soliday (R-Valparaiso), makes numerous changes to provisions regarding the Bureau of Motor Vehicles. It amends the definition of “farm wagon” to include all three, four or six-wheeled motor vehicles that are capable of cross country travel and are used primarily for farming purposes. This definition would include ATVs or utility vehicles such as a John Deere Gator or Kawasaki Mule. Those vehicles would be exempted from title and registration procedures if they are used for farming purposes.

SEA 421 – ABOVE GROUND STORAGE TANKS
SEA 421, authored by Sen. Eric Bassler (R-Washington), repeals the law requiring owners of certain above-ground storage tanks to register their tanks with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management because numerous state agencies already collect that information. SEA 421 also requests a study committee to further examine the issue of how best to organize above-ground storage tank information that is already reported to government.

HEA 1039 – ROUNDABOUT RIGHT-OF-WAY
One of the first bills to move this session was HEA 1039, authored by Rep. Jerry Torr (R-Carmel). It requires that vehicles in a roundabout do not pass other vehicles over 10 feet wide or more than 40 feet long. This law will be beneficial to farmers who are maneuvering semis and wide equipment through roundabouts.

HEA 1157 – RED TAPE ELIMINATION BILL
HEA 1157, authored by Rep. Doug Miller (R-Elkhart), requires the division of government efficiency and financial planning within the Office of Management & Budget to identify any duplicative state reporting requirements regarding the employees of small businesses.

HEA 1260 – RAILROAD EMINENT DOMAIN RESTRICTIONS
HEA 1260, authored by Rep. Ed Soliday (R-Valparaiso), restricts railroad power of eminent domain to those sites where they have demonstrated a public use.

HEA 1234 – STORAGE OF AGRICULTURAL AMMONIA
HEA 1234, authored by Rep. Don Lehe (R-Brookston), clarifies that the state chemist has regulatory authority over all agricultural ammonia storage, including on-farm storage.

HEA 1200 – OFF-ROAD VEHICLE SAFETY
HEA 1200, authored by Rep. Lloyd Arnold (R-Leavenworth), requires off-road vehicle operators and riders under age 18 to wear helmets. The law does not apply to ATVs or UTVs such as John Deere Gators that are being used for agricultural purposes.

HEA 1421 – ZONING BILL ADVANCES
HEA 1421, authored by Rep. Jim Pressel (R-Rolling Prairie), provides certainty to those who have applied for a building permit by adding clarity that the rules in place at the time of the application govern for a period of three years for any zoning approval or other secondary permit.

SEA 275 – NON-DOMICILED COMMERCIAL DRIVER’S LICENSES
SEA 275, authored by Sen. Travis Holdman (R-Markle), requires the Bureau of Motor Vehicles to issue non-domiciled commercial driver’s licenses in compliance with federal law. These licenses are made available to residents of other states or foreign countries. This law will allow legal farm workers to obtain an Indiana CDL, which is consistent with surrounding states.

SEA 413 – OPPORTUNITY TO CORRECT VIOLATION
SEA 413, authored by Sen. Eric Koch (R-Bedford), allows an agency to offer an opportunity for an individual to correct an alleged violation found during an inspection before taking an enforcement action or imposing a civil penalty on the individual. The process cannot be used in certain situations, such as if it was caused by intentional misconduct or there is an immediate risk to a person, human health or the environment.