Randy Kron became president of Indiana Farm Bureau after Don Villwock retired. Kron, Evansville, took the reins in January 2016. Recently he took time to reflect on his accomplishments and challenges so far in an exclusive interview with Indiana Prairie Farmer.
What do you consider your most important accomplishments as president of Indiana Farm Bureau? Passage of property tax reform for farmers in 2016 and of the road infrastructure funding bill in 2017 probably are the two most important things. The credit for making legislators aware of these issues and pushing for them to pass them [legislation] really belongs to our members.
How did members assist in turning these bills into law? They visited the statehouse during the session, and kept in contact with their representatives and senators. For example, in 2016 during the push for true property tax reform for farmers, some 800 Indiana Farm Bureau members visited Indianapolis during the legislative session. There were members from various counties here almost every day, walking the halls and telling legislators why they needed help in lowering property tax bills.
Did those visits really make a difference? Absolutely! Before the session started we met with legislators, and they told us they understood, but adjusting property taxes for farmland probably wasn’t in the cards for 2016. Then our members went to work, visiting and contacting legislators in various ways. Shortly before the end of the session, a legislator told me “to call off the dogs.” He said they got the message loud and clear.
We often hear a member say that he or she doesn’t see the point in visiting the Legislature or contacting a senator or representative. They just don’t believe one person can make a difference. This was a classic case where each and every person who took time to express their views made a difference. I’m convinced that our members were responsible for the legislation passing.
Why was passing property tax changes for farmland in 2016 so important? If the Legislature hadn’t acted, some farmers could have been paying up to $50 per acre in property taxes this year. That’s not what we need when we’re saddled with low crop prices. Property tax assessments per acre haven’t actually gone down yet in most cases, but the legislation stopped increases that were coming. Because of the legislation, we will get to the point where tax bills per acre actually come down sooner than we would have before.
FARM BUREAU LEADER REFLECTS: Randy Kron says passage of property tax relief in 2016 and the infrastructure legislation in 2017 are highlights of his career as IFB president so far.
Did the bill passed this year dealing with road infrastructure meet with members’ approval? Yes. It included a gasoline tax hike, and that was the policy our membership adopted for 2017. You certainly won’t see Farm Bureau advocating for a tax increase very often, but our membership felt it was needed and made it part of our policy.
What is the key part of road infrastructure legislation that passed? We felt it was critical that counties and local folks have control over part of the funds for road and bridge repairs and upgrades. At first it appeared that might not happen, but in the end, legislators crafted a law that sent a significant amount of money back to local communities. Decisions about rural roads and bridges are often best made by the people living there.