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Everything from how the Legislature will conduct business to which workers will get vaccines first remains hazy.

December 14, 2020

3 Min Read
ISDA Director Bruce Kettler
MORE QUESTIONS THAN ANSWERS: About the only thing Indiana State Department of Agriculture Director Bruce Kettler knew for sure while talking virtually to farmers about the 2021 legislative session was that funding would be tight. ISDA

Changes to the Indiana statutes related to grain and warehouse licensing and the grain indemnity fund may be proposed in the Legislature for the 2021 session. Proposed changes stem from gaps in current law revealed by an elevator failure still unfolding in northeastern Indiana, involving Salamonie Mills, based in Huntington County.

Farmers with vested interests in this elevator failure discussed the case with Indiana Prairie Farmer. It is possible that proposed legislation could include clauses that would make more people involved in the elevator failure eligible for reimbursement from the grain indemnity fund than qualify under current law. These farmers were seeking advice on how to support such legislation if it makes its way into the Legislature.

Normally, that’s an easy question to answer. If you truly care about legislation, you let key legislators know. Letters, phone calls and emails all help, but one of the best ways is to show up in person at the statehouse and visit with them one on one. Nothing gets a legislator’s attention like a person, especially someone from his or her own county or district, taking time to show up and discuss it.

Indiana Farm Bureau has turned that approach into a tried-and-true method to deliver messages on everything from the need to change property tax laws to changing a statute so individual farmers can get more affordable health coverage. IFB has called on members successfully in both these situations, and in many other cases.

Different world

The problem this year is that no one is yet sure how the Legislature will operate. Will person-to-person visits even be possible? Will they even meet and vote in person? Speaking virtually during the Indiana Corn and Soybean Forum on Nov. 30, not even Bruce Kettler, director of the Indiana State Department of Agriculture, knew how to answer those questions.

Kettler said the General Assembly still must determine how lawmakers, lobbyists and government officials can interact and maintain personal safety as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Kettler himself was unsure whether those conversations would be in person in 2021, or if they would need to be virtual.

You may not consider yourself a lobbyist, but if you care deeply about an issue, whether it is the grain buyer’s law or something else, you need to make sure your voice is heard too. Stay tuned to see how the Legislature proceeds. And don’t be surprised if it turns out to be an evolving situation as leaders figure out how to work through challenging issues in very unusual times.

Kettler is confident that the Legislature will figure out how to function; it just may not be in the same way it normally functions. We’re certain Hoosiers with a story to tell will figure out how to tell it to legislators, even if it’s not in person.

Kettler was more certain about one thing: Funding will be tight this year, and it is a budget session. Due to COVID-19, more budgets may need to be stretched.

Kettler acknowledged that his department had already cut back, partly by not filling positions that opened. ISDA is currently operating with about 10% fewer staff than normal.

“I’m very proud that our team does the work that needs to be done,” Kettler said. “It’s no different than farmers or ag business. We do more with less on a regular basis.”

Comments? Email [email protected].

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