INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana Farm Bureau celebrates successful advocacy efforts toward passing legislation that positively impacts farmers, agribusiness professionals and rural communities. At the close of the 2020 legislative session, several of INFB’s priority positions were passed into law.
INFB’s top priority this session was achieved with the passage of Senate Enrolled Act 184. SEA 184 allows INFB to offer more affordable, high quality health benefit plans to its members. The bill passed out of the Senate by a vote of 49-0 and out of the House by a vote of 94-2.
“Senate Enrolled Act 184 is an important piece of legislation that will help many farmers and others in rural communities gain access to more affordable health benefits,” said Randy Kron, INFB president.
“Since many Indiana Farm Bureau members go without health coverage, this innovation solution creates a new, more affordable option that doesn’t exist today. Farm Bureau will begin working on developing the health plans and has set an ambitious goal of benefits being available in the fourth quarter of 2020.”
Another INFB priority this session was the continued expansion of rural broadband. Senate Enrolled Act 177 transfers the authority of the Broadband Ready Program to the Office of Rural and Community Affairs, which aligns with the agency’s focus to improve communities around the state.
In addition, Senate Enrolled Act 343 changes the Rural Telephone Cooperative Act to the Rural Communications Cooperative Act, which will expand service offerings for rural Hoosiers.
“For the past several years, Indiana Farm Bureau has focused on the rollout and implementation of rural broadband,” said Katrina Hall, INFB’s director of public policy.
“Rural broadband is important for these communities as it fosters economic growth, educational opportunities and connectivity. Moving forward, INFB will continue to support any effort that increases speeds, creates more efficiency and expands internet access to rural Hoosiers.”
INFB also worked on legislation to clarify the state’s pesticide statutes. Senate Enrolled Act 438 makes some technical clarifications concerning pesticide registration, use and application.
The bill also creates a working group of affected industry organizations, with a recommendation due to the Indiana General Assembly before Dec.1.
“Indiana Farm Bureau supported the effort to help the Office of Indiana State Chemist modernize the civil penalty portion of the Indiana pesticide statute,” said Jeff Cummins, INFB’s associate director for policy engagement.
“SEA 438 is an important first step in developing a well-rounded approach to creating a more objective and transparent process of assessing civil penalties to deter bad actors. INFB looks forward to participating in the working group this year.”
Other important bills INFB worked on this session include:
• SEA 20 — requires that an agricultural extension educator must be a resident in that county in order to serve on the county’s advisory plan commission. The bill also provides that an educator who is not a resident of the county can serve in a nonvoting advisory capacity.
• SEA 229 — provides that a wetland permit is not required from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management for the reconstruction or maintenance of a regulated drain if the work is being completed in the existing drainage easement.
• SEA 340 — revises the statute allowing a municipality to condemn property for economic development to require a three-fourths vote of the local legislative body before exercising the power of eminent domain. The bill requires a municipality to provide notice to affected owners, both residents and nonresidents, when the city is considering taking over private property and creates a new right of appeal in eminent domain proceedings.
“The 2020 legislative session was successful because of Indiana Farm Bureau’s grassroots,” Hall said. “More than 270 members made sure their voices were heard by engaging with legislators at the Statehouse or third house meetings, as well as the countless phone calls and emails. Thanks to the members who participated this session. They truly made a difference.”