Annexation will likely be on the table for discussion in the form of a bill by the time the 2014 Indiana General Assembly rolls around. It impacts agriculture because it could impact what happens to farmland adjacent to cities and towns, notes Bob Cherry, a state representative, R-Greenfield, and legislative specialist with Indiana Farm Bureau.
Meanwhile, Cherry reminds farmers that one thorny issue that could impact farmers, especially those farming in counties with a large metro area, was dealt with last session. That involved the merger of incorporated and unincorporated areas within a county.
The spotlight was on the issue last session because of the controversy in Vanderburgh County. The City of Evansville wanted to merge with unincorporated areas of the county to form a government complex similar to that in Marion County. The decision was up to votes. The potential problem, Cherry notes, was that both city and rural voters each had the same vote, and there were many more city voters than rural voters.
After a spirited campaign and help form certain elements with the city itself, rural residents staved off the merger. However, the close call for rural residents caught the attention of legislators who addressed the issue in the 2013 session.
Cherry was one of the legislators who led the merger bill in the House.
"Passing this was huge because of what it does for rural residents," he says. "The new legislation requires a vote in both areas – the incorporated area and the unincorporated area. The votes are two separate elections. A merger must pass in both areas before it can proceed and become effective."
The impact for agriculture is huge because of what could happen to taxes and rules on land use if a merger goes through. From now on rural residents will have a say up front in deciding if there should be a merger or not," Cherry says.