Letter to the Editor

Farm Bureau members stand up for what they believe in

Sunday, April 3, 2016

To the editor:

Indiana Farm Bureau is known for grassroots policy positions -- standing for something and working to make it happen. This approach has been true since our beginning in 1919 and was more evident than ever during the 2016 legislative session.

In today's culture, standing up for your ideas and making a difference is not as easy as going to a rally or posting online. Yet this year our members took the more challenging road by standing up for what they believe, coming to the Statehouse and working with their elected officials for a solution to rapidly escalating property taxes.

I am extremely proud of the county Farm Bureau network of farmers that came to the Statehouse each day, worked to educate legislators back home and made numerous contacts to voice concerns and advance our agenda. Our grassroots farmer-members convinced the General Assembly to pass SB 308, which provides historic levels of farmland tax relief

For Indiana Farm Bureau's top priority to be realized took the leadership of two very special lawmakers to negotiate a compromise. I must thank Sen. Brandt Hershman who proposed and championed the formula concepts and to Rep. Tim Brown, who worked them through the House. Passage of SB 308 also depended on countless legislators who listened to the facts and recognized the need for farmland tax relief

SB 308 makes much needed permanent and substantial changes to the farmland value formula. On average, farmland taxes have increased 63% since 2007 - far more than any other type of taxable property.

SB 308 matches the base value more closely with a farmer's ability to pay by reducing the four-year lag in net income data used in the formula to a two-year delay. It also freezes the soil productivity factors at the current levels and creates statutory cap rates (ranging between 6 percent and 8 percent) that are triggered by how much the farmland formula increases or decreases.

While savings from last year's legislation averted a $250 million increase for the same period, SB 308 will finally make farmland tax bills go down. It is estimated that farmland owners will save $16.5 million in 2017, $48.7 million in 2018 and $106.4 million in 2019.

This year farmers found their voice by coming to the Statehouse, attending town hall meetings and making other contacts with their lawmakers. By being involved and showing up, our members truly were the voice of Indiana agriculture. They should be incredibly proud of the outcome.

As a farmland owner facing a depressed farm economy, I think the passage of this tax relief measure is a cause for celebration by everyone involved in Indiana agriculture.