June 15, 2021

Broadband, budget wins for INFB

Farm Bureau highlights legislation wins

INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana Farm Bureau had several victories at this year’s General Assembly.

“Broadband and budget were two huge wins for our membership,” said Andy Tauer, executive director of public policy.

The organization’s top priority was to expand broadband to rural Indiana.

“When you think about remote working, e-learning, telehealth, the technology on the farm — having higher speeds is a huge win,” Tauer said.

“In the overall state budget, we had an appropriation of $250 million for the Next Level connection grants. A huge opportunity to really get that broadband deployment out into rural communities where they are currently unserved or underserved.”

Other broadband-related legislation included:

• HEA 1449 — requires projects that are eligible for a Rural Broadband Grant to provide speeds of at least 100 mbps download and 10 mbps upload.

• SEA 377 — provides $50,000 to a county if it achieves broadband internet connectivity for at least 90% of the county before Jan. 1, 2026.

• SEA 359 — requires the Indiana Department of Transportation to create a broadband corridor program to manage the location, installation and maintenance of broadband infrastructure.

• SEA 352 — requires the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs to prioritize broadband funding in underserved areas.

The state budget included $363,000 for 10 additional Board of Animal Health meat and poultry inspectors.

“That money will be matched from the federal (level),” Tauer said. “This won’t be the sole solution with all the problems we had with meat and poultry processing facilities last spring, but it will go a long way to help increase the capacity at many of our small and medium-sized meat and poultry facilities.”

Indiana Farm Bureau also supported a bill that will strengthen the Indiana Grain Buyers and Warehouse Licensing Agency.

“That’s a win for our membership because it will create some additional transparency and oversight for that agency,” Tauer said. “I think it will create a better agency and more protection for our farmers as they deliver their grains to licensed facilities.”

Another big win in the budget included career and technical education classes, Tauer said. Those funds were restored to previous levels.

The INFB public policy team is already thinking about legislation for 2022. Policy advisory meetings will start in June, followed by the INFB delegate session in late August.

“We’ll be very busy between now and the end of August thinking about that 2022 General Assembly,” Tauer said. “At the same time, there are a few bills this year that established some working groups or study committees. We’ll have team members engaged in those discussions, as well.

“Even though the 2021 General Assembly just recessed, we’re already looking ahead to 2022.”

Erica Quinlan

Field Editor