Indiana Farm Bureau's annual convention, held December 12-13 in French Lick, brought about many accomplishments and issues going on in Indiana agriculture. But "talking" was the focus Indiana Farm Bureau President Don Villwock placed at the forefront of his annual address.
Villwock challenged farmers to continue to talk to legislators and opinion leaders about the issues that matter to agriculture, including skyrocketing property taxes, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's proposed Waters of the U.S. rule, protecting farm data, and annexation of farm ground by cities and towns.
"Every one of you must contact your legislator this winter to tell your story," Villwock said. "Tell them we need their help in fixing the unfair property tax system. But if we are to succeed, we not only need you. We need new members, your neighbors, helping us tell the property tax story, too."
Property taxes have gone up an average of 33% in the last three years, and they are scheduled to go up an additional 16.5% this year and 18% next year. This become even more important due to tumbling crop prices, he pointed out.
While property taxes have been an issue for farmers for years, the issue isn't going away. Another issue that isn't solving itself is the fight against the EPA's proposed waters of the U.S. rule, which Villwock said he believed would be the "largest land grab in the history of the United States" if it goes through.
Through a campaign known as "Ditch The Rule," INFB and other state Farm Bureaus from across the county have banded together to get EPA to reconsider and withdraw the proposal. Villwock added that it would this proposal were to go through it would give the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers regulatory authority over almost every farm in Indiana.
Related: Top 5 Waters of the U.S. Headlines
An ever emerging issue is annexation of farm ground by cities and towns. Villwock explained that this is becoming a bigger and bigger issue as cities and towns struggle to increase their tax base.
"In last year's legislative session we lost by one vote our battle to get farmers the protection they need. Yes, one vote," he said. "Your call could have made the difference."
These are all reasons we need to talk more about the issues that affect agriculture. "It takes every farmer getting involved to accomplish our goals and to accomplish our priorities." Villwock said.