Agriculture Bills Making Waves in the State Senate

As the Indiana House and Senate prepare for the end of this year’s legislative session, one important element of this year’s legislation has been agriculture bills.

District 47 State Senator Richard Young, who represents parts of Crawford, Dubois, Harrison, Orange, Perry, and Washington counties, says the biggest of these ag bills to pass has been Senate Bill 319, which deals with how farm land is assessed for property taxes in the future. Young says the Department of Local Government Finance had made changes to the formula in how farm land property taxes are calculated through soil productivity factors in the formula.

Young says should the changes be implemented, they would result in a sizable increase in property taxes for farmers, with some farmers paying 20 percent more in property taxes than in recent years.

Young says the reaction to potential formula changes from farmers that he has heard from has not been favorable.

Young says Senate Bill 319 puts the formula changes on hold until Purdue University and other groups can study the issue this year for review in next year’s session. He says farm land property taxes were frozen at their 2011 rates for this year.

Also, a Senate resolution on agriculture has caused a bit of a stir. Senate Resolution 30, which proposes studying the addition of industrial hemp as another crop option for Hoosier farmers, was passed by Young among others for a summer study committee. The federal government currently does not allow farmers to grow hemp due to its being in the cannabis family of crops alongside marijuana.

Young says several states, including Kentucky, have begun the process to add industrial hemp to their states’ legal crop list, including looking to get permission from the government to grow it, and that now is a good time for Indiana to act on it.

Young says although corn crops have been very profitable for farmers due to corn’s use for ethanol, the possibility of Congress taking ethanol subsidies in the future could cause Hoosier farmers to seek other options.

In other notes, Young also says he did not support the Senate’s “Ag-Gag” Bill, which would ban filming or photography at Hoosier farms or factories without permission. Young says he found the bill as presented to be too controlling and hopes that changes to the bill can be made once action is taken on it in the Indiana House.