Wayne Dillman, Martinsville, Ind., was named an Honorary Master Farmer in 2011. Over the course of his career, Dillman worked with legislators on behalf of the Indiana Farmers Union and later, Indiana Farm Bureau Inc. One statement he made when I visited him stuck.
“Farmers would often come up after a session and ask what we did for them this time,” Dillman related. “Sometimes they didn’t think we accomplished much. I would always smile and say, ‘What you don’t know is the things we stopped from happening in the Statehouse which you wouldn’t have liked at all.’”
His message was clear. Sometimes the value of being at the table and having a say with legislators is to make sure things don’t happen that would put unnecessary regulations in the way or restrict farmers in other ways. Occasionally, the efforts to undermine farmers are intentional. Other times, they’re because many legislators simply don’t understand agriculture. That’s where a lobbyist who has a relationship with legislators can really help, Dillman told me.
Legislation to watch
Indiana Farm Bureau reports on legislation regularly during the legislative session. Here are bills reported in the IFB Dispatch, a weekly email newsletter, worth watching:
• Air quality regulations. House Bill 1378 would require the Environmental Rules Board to adopt air quality regulations for confined feeding operations, or CFOs. It would also require a 1-mile setback from residences unless a workable air quality plan is in place. This legislation would also change regulations for reporting environmental regulations and require more information to be submitted to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management for approvals. IFB opposes the legislation.
• Limit CFO construction and expansion. House Bill 1040 would prohibit IDEM from approving construction or expansion of a CFO if a manure unit is within 500 feet of a residence on the site of a CFO; within 1,000 feet of a residence outside the site of a CFO; or fewer than 1,000 feet from a public or private water supply well, intake, or private or public reservoir or lake. It also includes regulations related to air quality and would require testing for various compounds at a CFO. IFB also opposes this legislation.
Some of these bills may die in committee. However, IFB believes it’s important for farmers to realize that every session, one or more legislators introduces these types of bills.
• Concentrated animal feeding operation inspections. Senate Bill 247 would require IDEM to inspect every CAFO in Indiana at least once per year. IFB spokespeople say this one requires more thought. IFB’s official position is that the farm group “supports this bill, in part.” While IFB doesn’t see a need to inspect properly managed CAFOs that maintain good records every year, there are operations that commit certain violations, and they should be inspected more frequently.
• Fence law changes. Senate Bill 308 would change existing fence law in regards to who pays for fence construction. Fence law has stood the test of time, and IFB opposes this legislation. It would require a fence to be built, paid for, repaired and maintained by the person who builds the fence, rather than splitting costs among adjoining landowners where the fence is constructed. The legislation would grandfather-in partition fences built before Jan. 1 under current fence statutes.
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