If you ask a farmer who also happens to be a legislator and a Farm Bureau legislative specialist about the biggest accomplishments for agriculture in the recently-concluded session of the Indiana General Assembly, you would bet heavily that the first words out of his mouth would be tax cuts. Farmers in effect received help and virtually a cut on property taxes for land values when the farmland assessment formula was changed by legislation to throw out the highest year of the six year formula.
You might say that, but you would be wrong. Bob Cherry, a Republican representative from Greenfield, actually mentioned passage of the Animal Care Standards bill first. This is legislation that assigns authority to develop standards for proper care of animals to the Indiana Board of Animal Health, also known as BOAH.
"With all the efforts that the Humane Society of the United States has been making and all the noise they make, it was good to get this on the books, and to put the task of making decisions on animal care into the hands of the Board of Animal Health," Cherry says.
"I'm now confident that standards for care of various animals will be set based upon science, not upon emotion. That's a big plus for those of us in the livestock industry."
That wasn't the only action Cherry found significant. While farmers gained property tax relief on bare farmland, assuming Daniels signs the bill, they didn't get relief of personal property tax. However, the Senate did refer it to a summer study committee.
"It's not nearly as much money involved as what the rule changes are for landowners," Cherry says. "However, some farmers just starting out don't have land. They have equipment, and this change would have helped them."
Right now, there is a 30% floor for assessment. So even if a grain cart is 25 years old, wore out and not used as the main grain cart anymore, it is still assessed at 30% of what it cost new.
"Someone could have paid more in property taxes on an old John Deere 4020 by now than what it costs new," Cherry says. "Even old, worn out hay wagons still go down at 30% of the value they would have been worth new during assessment."
Cherry hopes some agreement can be reached during the summer study process to help rectify this situation in the 2011 Indiana General Assembly. Fortunately, inventory taxes were eliminated several years ago and remain off the table.