The Indiana Farm Bureau took steps to help secure reliable broadband for rural communities
By Diego Flammini
During the recent legislative session, the Indiana Farm Bureau assisted state politicians in passing bills that will help the state’s farming community.
The group identified rural broadband as its top priority for the 2018 session of the General Assembly.
Broadband is a key component of modern farming operations, and the passing of House Enrolled Act (HEA) 1065 will help more farmers and small towns in the state accesses that tool.
HEA 1065 establishes a grant program for broadband deployment by the Office of Community and Rural Affairs. More work needs to be done on broadband access but the grant program is a step in the right direction, said Justin Schneider, director of state government relations with the Indiana Farm Bureau.
“The grant program was put in place to allow broadband providers to receive funds from the State to support investment in unserved areas,” Schneider told Farms.com today. “The upfront costs of installing fibre (optic cables) is pretty high and this (funding) will help offset those costs to companies providing service. There isn’t a lot of money in that program currently so that’s something we have to come back to with next year (in order) to make sure there’s sufficient money.”
Another act the Indiana Farm Bureau helped spearhead is related to noxious weeds.
The passing of HEA 1227 added waterhemp, marestail, Palmer amaranth, Powell amaranth, smooth pigweed, rough pigweed and poison hemlock to the noxious weed list.
Putting those weeds on the list allows local weed boards to have authority over how to control them, Schneider said. Beef producers in the state are concerned with one weed in particular, he added.
“Beef cattle producers have had a challenge with poison hemlock,” he said. “My understanding is that, if a cow eats that weed when she’s pregnant, it can lead to aborted calves or birth defects.”
The Indiana Farm Bureau also helped pass a bill that allows bulk milk trucks to carry more product.
Senate Enacted Bill (SEA) 212 allows bulk milk haulers to apply for an overweight milk hauling permit instead of previous one-time use permits that expired after 15 days.
“There was a change in federal law under the (Fixing America's Surface Transportation) Act several years ago that was put in place to authorize the overweight hauling of bulk milk,” Schneider said. “But the way it was done was not consistent with Indiana law so, for the last couple of years, bulk milk hasn’t been able to get the annual permit Indiana had previously offered. The change puts milk haulers back to where they were a few years ago.”
The Indiana Farm Bureau also helped stop HB 1005, which could have impacted rural communities.
That bill would have forced more than 300 townships, each with a population of less than 1,200 people, to merge with a neighboring township.
If they joined larger townships, smaller townships may have experienced increased taxes, Schneider said, adding that the issue will be revisited in the 2019 legislative session.
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