The Indiana General Assembly sees tons of bills introduced each session. The majority never make it out of committee. So just because someone proposes a bill with a radical idea doesn't mean it has any sort of chance of passing. That's why Bob Kraft, veteran legislative specialist for Indiana's largest farm group, Indiana Farm Bureau, doesn't get excited early in the session, especially this year.
"We're watching and talking, but right now it's not clear which if any bills related to agriculture might have a realistic chance of moving forward," he says. "There just aren't any strong bills on the horizon yet."
Some bills related to livestock production and confined animal feeding operations have surfaced. And some of the ideas are a bit extreme. But it's far too early to mount major opposition to these bills, or muster up great support for favorable bills. The process needs time to work and sift through what ahs a chance of seeing the light of day, and what will die a natural death, he advises.
The 800 pound gorilla this session is the budget. Monies are tight, and there doesn't appear to be any way around that reality, Kraft notes. Kraft and others on the Farm Bureau staff will be watching closely to see how much funding is proposed for various ag interests. One of them will be funding of Clean Water Indiana, the soil conservation program funded by state dollars. It finally received limited funding in the '07 legislature for two years. Whether it will be renewed, increased or sliced remains to be seen.
Higher education also appears to be positioned to take it on the chin. Purdue University proposed major overhauls in the facilities of the Life Science Building and the animal research campus. The university was asking for help on the project, although was willing to put up part of the funds. Projects such as those remain questionable in this current economic climate. No official word ahs been issued from the legislature, however.
The other legislation Farm Bureau will watch closely is introduction of the property tax caps form the reform legislation that passed a year ago. Governor Daniels wants them to become a constitutional amendment. Farm Bureau opposes the move, explaining that farmers believe the current plan ought to have time to work before taking the dramatic step of setting such proposals in concrete.
The legislature must pass the cap reform language verbatim either this year or next year for it to move forward. If it passes this year, it will be placed on the election ballot during the general election in '10.
The Democrat leadership in the House is not in favor of passing the cap language this session. In fact, they've vowed not to let it come up for vote. This is one that ag insiders will watch closely.