Mission of policy organizations is to provide farm advocacy in government
BY STEVE HOWELL, Senior Director for Industry Affairs
The primary purpose of Indiana Soybean Alliance’s Membership & Policy Committee (M&P) and the
Indiana Corn Growers Association (ICGA) is the government advocacy the organizations provide to its membership.
Owning and operating a farming enterprise is, by no surprise to our readers, a time-consuming and demanding vocation that requires nearly no-stop focus on the day-to-day business of the operation. There are many issues, both at the state and federal level, which can and do have a big impact on the profitability of the farm.
With the never-ending demands of modern farming, how can farmers impact the debate surrounding both state and federal issues and be sure their voice is heard by lawmakers and regulators?
This is why membership in both M&P and ICGA is so important. Your membership provides you with advocacy at the State Capital in Indianapolis and in Washington, D.C.
In this issue, we will explain how M&P and ICGA members are represented and have their voices heard during the Indiana General Assembly as well as some of the legislative priorities of state leaders.
ICGA and M&P staff monitor legislation at the Statehouse to determine any impact on soybean and corn farmers. If an impact is found, either positively or negatively, we will be at the Statehouse advocating for our members.
We always watch for opportunities that will add to the profitability of the farm and work to advance those ideas. We also keep an eye on proposals which may hinder the industry and defend our members.
Bill to boost biofuel sales
This year a proposal to incentivize biofuel sales was authored by Rep. Dave Heine (R-New Haven). The bill, HB 1080, provides income tax incentives for fuel retailers and distributors who offer higher blends of biofuels. Since
the bill incentivizes higher blends for both ethanol and biodiesel, it will be a win for corn and soybean farmers,
if the bill becomes law. The bill would ultimately lead to increased demand for both corn and soybeans.
M&P and ICGA staff worked closely with Rep. Heine and other industry stakeholders in the drafting of the legislation. During the General Assembly, we are hard at work advocating for the bill’s advancement through the legislative process, and hopefully, to final passage. During the General Assembly, M&P and ICGA will be at the Statehouse pushing favorable bills, like HB 1080, to get a hearing in committee and to build support among the legislators to continue advancement.
If HB 1080 does receive a hearing, M&P and ICGA staff or our farmer-leaders, will be in the committee hearing providing testimony in support of the bill and explain the positive impact the bill will have on corn and soybean farmers as well as the overall economy of Indiana.
If we identify legislation that would be harmful to corn and soybean farmers, we are present at the General Assembly to explain the impact and to turn support away from damaging initiatives.
As of mid-February, HB 1080 is awaiting a hearing in the House Ways and Means Committee. Hopefully the bill gets a hearing and continues through the legislative process. However, if the bill comes up short, ICGA and M&P will continue to advocate for Indiana farmers and build support for the bill in the future.
Bi-annual state budget lead 2023
This year the legislature is meeting in what is known in Indiana as a “long” session. Indiana’s part-time legislature
meets for 60 legislative days in odd-numbered years to develop and pass legislation pertaining to the state budget, as well as other bills offered by legislators. Even-numbered years do not require budget-related legislation and the legislative days are limited to 30 working days. Hence, the “long” session this year.
The 2023 session of the Indiana General Assembly convened on Jan. 9, to start the legislative season.
There are many new faces in the Statehouse with the addition of several freshman House and Senate members. M&P and ICGA staff have been busy building relationships with new lawmakers explaining how various policies impact soybean and corn farmers.
New legislators have taken leadership roles in various committees important to ICGA and M&P members, while some familiar lawmakers continue leadership in other committees of interest.
State Rep. Jeffery Thompson (R-Lizton) was tapped to chair the House Ways and Means Committee, which has jurisdiction over the state budget. State Rep. Michael Aylesworth (R-Highland) was appointed chair of the House Agriculture and Rural Development Committee. State Rep. Alan Morrison (R-Covington) will lead the House Environmental Affairs Committee.
State Sen. Jean Leising (R-Oldenburg) will return as chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee. State Sen. Rick Niemeyer (R-Lowell) was selected to lead the Senate Environmental Affairs Committee.
Legislative and executive priorities
It is important to know the priorities of Indiana’s leadership to know the general theme of the legislative session. This provides a good understanding of the desired outcomes sought by the governor and the legislature. Although few high-level priorities have a direct impact on corn and soybean farmers, they do have an impact on our communities and are important to all Hoosier citizens.
Below is a brief listing of the legislative goals for the governor, House and Senate Republicans and House and Senate Democrats.
Gov. Eric Holcomb released his Next Level Agenda legislative priorities including:
- Economic development
- Pass balanced budget while maintaining healthy reserves and pay down pre-1996 Teachers’ Pension obligation
- Modernize economic development efforts
- Double funding for manufacturing readiness grants
- Build planned capital projects, such as the Westville prison, co-located schools for blind and deaf students, state archives, an inn at Potato Creek State Park
- Invest in tourism and attract more visitors and new residents
- Education and workforce
- Improve early childhood care and education
- Increase investments in K-12 education and raise teacher salaries
During the first week of session, Senate and House Republicans released their legislative priorities, laying out their top goals for the legislative session. Senate Republicans broke down their priorities into five main ideas including:
- Study the possibility of ending Indiana’s income tax and reforming property taxes for Hoosiers
- Continue to pay-down the Pre-1996 Teachers’ Retirement Fund
- Change state law for businesses to deduct state tax payments on federal tax returns
Mental Heath and Public Health Infrastructure
- Increase transparency of health insurance claims
- Lowering health care and drug costs
Lowering health care and drug costs Expand Indiana’s READI program to continue economic development statewide
Supporting Law Enforcement and Ensuring Public Safety
- Raise the pay for Indiana State Police
Protecting Hoosiers’ Data Privacy
- Restrict how companies collect and use personal data
The House Republicans released similar themes for their legislative priorities including:
- Fiscal responsibility
- Support critical services and maintain responsible reserves
- Expand Indiana’s READI program, to continue economic development
- Maximize returns for Indiana’s public retirement fund
- Empowering students and families
- Lower healthcare costs and improve transparency in healthcare marketplace
- Increase energy reliability and affordability
The 2023 legislative priorities rolled out by Senate Democrats include:
- Ease Hoosiers’ economic burdens
- Restore reproductive freedom for Hoosier women
- Invest in education and workforce readiness
- Expand childcare options and establish paid family leave
The House Democrats priorities include: