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Indiana Farm Bureau Discusses 2019 Legislative Session Priorities

Gov. Eric Holcomb answers Indiana Farm Bureau President Randy Kron's questions about issues impacting the Hoosier agriculture industry. (Samantha Horton/IPB News)

Indiana Farm Bureau hosted its legislative kickoff Wednesday bringing together organization members and legislators. Some of the priorities this session include rural school funding, insuring deployment of expanded broadband, tax values, hemp, confined feeding and township government.

The 2018 Farm Bill made industrial hemp a legal agricultural product. In a continuing effort to bring hemp production to the state, the Indiana Farm Bureau has local legislation on its list of priorities for the 2019 lawmaking session.

While the state does allow Purdue University researchers to grow the plant for scientific purposes, no commercial production is allowed. Indiana Farm Bureau government relations director Justin Schneider says he expects a bill to be presented now that hemp is no longer listed as a controlled substance.

“I think the primary thing will just be the creation of the mechanism that you need to have state oversight to comply with the federal requirements,” says Schneider.

Gov. Eric Holcomb says he’s eager and anxious to discuss the plants future in Indiana, but wants to make sure everything is done by the book.

“Anything that we do that’s in response to not just change, but change from Washington D.C., that could have a positive effect, I think it would, for our ag community that it’s regulated appropriately,” says Holcomb.

Indiana Farm Bureau President Randy Kron supports the possible addition of a new crop to Hoosier farmers’ portfolios but says demand for the plant needs to be understood.

“I think you go to any basic marketing or economic class they tell you, you gotta have a market before you start doing anything,” he says. “I want to make sure we have the markets so that we don’t raise it and then we say, ‘What do we do with it?’ We gotta make sure we find the markets first.”

So far no hemp specific legislation has been filed for the 2019 session, but Sen. Karen Tallian (D-Portage) has written a bill that would legalize both hemp and marijuana. Lawmakers have until Thursday afternoon to file bills.

While no major rural broadband legislation is expected this year, it was still a hot topic at the Indiana Farm Bureau’s legislative kickoff.

Indiana is investing $100 million to improve rural broadband throughout the state – a project Holcomb updated Wednesday.

“The goal has always been to have the program, the state grant to be rolled out by the end of, no later than the first quarter,” says Holcomb. “We’re on track to do that.”

Indiana Farm Bureau President Randy Kron says high-speed internet is becoming increasingly important, including in farmers’ fields.

“You know, whether it’s insects or fertility issues, there’s a lot of things we use technology for but you gotta have access to the high-speed broadband,” says Kron.

A Purdue University study released last year found that about 93,000 Hoosiers live without fast internet and suggested Indiana could bring in billions more dollars if it invested in quality rural broadband from border to border.

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