Purdue University agricultural economist Larry DeBoer has outlined the major issues involved in the current legislative discussion of farmland taxes. “It seems likely that something will be done about farmland property taxes,” DeBoer writes in his latest “Capital Comments” column for Purdue Extension. “How it will be done, and who will foot the bill are the big questions.”
Among the possible options the legislature could consider is changing the formula used to calculate farmland assessments to better reflect current market conditions, DeBoer writes. The current formula calculates the taxable value of farmland based on four-to-nine-year-old data, including commodity prices, yields, rents, interest rates and other costs.
But calculating this year’s taxes based on more recent data could increase tax bills in the short term, according to DeBoer, because market conditions have been generally favorable to farmers over the past few years, resulting in higher land values.
Another option could be introducing new deductions for farmland owners, DeBoer writes.
DeBoer’s column appears monthly in the “News Columns” section on the Extension homepage, https://extension.purdue.edu. DeBoer and Tamara Ogle, an Extension educator in Cass County, also have an active Twitter account, @INTaxRockstars, focusing on farmland tax and assessment issues.
The 2015 Legislative Session is underway. Katrina Hall, Indiana Farm Bureau’s director of state government relations says the biggest issue facing farmers in 2015 is farmland taxes. “The increase in farmland taxes is simply escalating at a point where they are going to be consuming the profits that farmers will be making,” she says.
Between 2007 and 2013, farmers paid an additional $100 million in property taxes – or a 33 percent increase. “Beyond this year – and even taxes that they will pay in 2015 most farmers will see their assessments have gone up 16.5 percent,” she says. “It may not be a 1 to 1 ration as to how much their bills will go up, but we have to stop the bleeding.”
And with the significant drop in commodity prices and farm incomes, Hall tells Brownfield the issue becomes even more critical.
With issues like farmland taxes, she says it is important for farmers to be in regular communication with their legislators. “They need to understand the issues of the folks that are affected by the things they are passing and working on,” she says. “That’s really is the best way for our members to have the chance to get policies implemented that impact them in the best way.”
Dear Steven, We all know the importance of clean water, especially our farming families, whose work is so dependent on an adequate supply of one of our most important natural resources. That’s why so many Hoosier farmers have voluntarily taken the initiative and proactively implemented conservation practices to improve water quality throughout the state. As a result, our state’s waters get cleaner each year. While challenges remain and we need to keep improving, we also need to ensure the Hoosier agriculture community is not overly burdened with rules and regulations or we risk inadvertently inhibiting future progress.
During a Senate Agriculture Committee hearing on Wednesday, I had the opportunity to raise the concerns and frustrations of Hoosier farmers and producers related to the “Waters of the United States.” I questioned Chief of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Jason Weller of the U.S. Department of Agriculture on voluntary conservation efforts by Hoosier farmers and the troublesome rule defining “Waters of the United States” within the Clean Water Act (CWA) and the interpretive rule on exemptions for certain agricultural practices. You may watch my questions and Weller’s answers here.
Watch Senator Donnelly’s questions and Chief Weller’s responses here.
During the hearing, I expressed the frustration I have heard from many agricultural, manufacturing, property development, and conservation stakeholders regarding the confusing attempt by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Army Corps of Engineers, and the NRCS to update the rules defining waters protected by the CWA. The regulations as currently written may have harmful and unintended consequences on the economy and the environment and I urged the agencies to work more effectively with the agriculture community to solve the problem without additional, burdensome regulation.
As you know, the EPA and Army Corps proposed a rule earlier this year defining the “Waters of the United States” that are protected by the CWA. Like many of you, I wanted the agencies to develop a rule that is narrowly tailored, consistent, and provides the certainty businesses need to plan for the future, while also balancing the need to protect our health and environment. I am concerned, however, that the proposed rule as currently written does not meet this goal.
In October, I wrote a letter to the EPA and Army Corps requesting that the agencies revise and clarify the proposed “Waters of the United States” rule. I asked that the agencies continue to work with stakeholders to address their valid concerns, consider input from those on the local level, and fulfill the requirements to study the proposed rule’s impact on small businesses and manufacturers before proposing the rule for another round of public comment. For more information and to see a copy of the letter, click here.
We will keep you updated on this issue and our work on the Senate Agriculture Committee. In the meantime, please feel free to contact us if you have any questions either by emailing or calling our Washington D.C. office at 202-224-4814.
Senator Joe Donnelly
Please do not reply to this email. To contact my office, please click here.
It’s official: 2015 will be the Year of the Farmer at the Indiana State Fair announced yesterday by fair officials, Lt. Governor Sue Ellspermann and Dow Agrosciences. Indiana State Fair Executive Director, Cindy Hoye, says it’s a great theme for consumer education on production agriculture.
“This year is just perfect. I couldn’t ask for a better year. Talking about individual farmers and what they contribute to put on your table, production farmers, the young 4-Her who’s out growing vegetables and learning about farming to little ones who are following in mom or dad’s footsteps combining, I’m just so excited about it. Even though farming is two percent of the population, it truly is so important to what we do here at the Indiana State Fair.”
Hoye adds that “A main reason the Indiana State Fair continues to thrive after 157 years in existence is the focus we place on agriculture. At the heart of agriculture is the individual farmer and, especially here in Indiana, farm families. We want them to understand how much they mean to our everyday lives and this is one way we can do that.”
This year’s theme is in partnership with Dow Agrosciences and will feature a number of unique programs and events to honor the Hoosier farmer. A lot of these will begin early in the year to extend the reach of this year’s fair theme, including:
- Harvest Dinner during the State fair
- Farmer’s Care Food Drive
- A speaker series on the importance of modern farming
- A creative writing contest for school kids centering on the Year of the Farmer
As planning continues for next year’s fair, the public will see messages and branding for the Year of the Farmer through a variety of communications with the intent of making all Hoosiers more aware of the innovative way that local farmers are keeping up with the growing demand for food, fuel and fiber.
Who better to tell the story of the farmer than farmers, themselves? Doug Morrow from Swayzee was elected as a farmer spokesman for this year’s fair.
“It’s quite an honor to be asked to represent Indiana farmers on the announcement. I think that it’s going to shed a new light on what farmers do. I don’t think people understand exactly how we handle our day to day operations and what we do to make decisions that impact our future and the safety of food. So to have a chance to work with the Indiana State Fair to get that platform out there, I think it’s going to be huge.”
Morrow also adds this is a great time to address consumer concerns on food safety. He looks forward to more educational interaction as the Year of the Farmer gets under way.
Lt. Governor Sue Ellspermann was also in attendance for the announcement and says any day she gets to go to the Indiana State Fair is a pretty good day.
“Recognizing the 2015 Indiana State Fair as the Year of the Farmer is a perfect fit. Productions grown by our farmers are interwoven through our lives and our economy to the point it’s difficult to identify any part of our existence that is not connected to what our farmers provide.”
USDA launched a new website to serve as a portal for climate information. The website launch was announced Wednesday via a department blog. USDA targeted the site towards farmers, ranchers, forest landowners and others to find “useful, practical information to help cope with the challenges and stressors caused by a changing climate.” The website includes resources related to drought, fire risk, pest and diseases, climate variability and heat stress, among other topics. The website also links users to the network of USDA conservation programs and resources that provide producers with technical and financial assistance to manage risks. Each region of the U.S. has its own dedicated hub on the website. To view the site, go to climatehubs dot oce dot usda dot gov. (http://climatehubs.oce.usda.gov/) The Climate hub’s vision, according to the website, is “to support robust and healthy agricultural production and natural resources under increasing climate variability and climate change.” USDA Climate Hubs National Leader Randy Johnson said in the blog release “We hope this site will serve as a gateway not only to the information and tools provided by the regional Hubs, but also to the larger network of USDA programs.”
Indiana Senator Joe Donnelly today requested that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Army Corps of Engineers clarify and revise the jointly proposed rule defining “Waters of the United States” within the Clean Water Act (CWA) and the interpretive rule regarding exemptions for certain agricultural conservation practices. Donnelly expressed concern about the impact of the proposed rule and interpretive rule. He urged the EPA and Army Corps to do their due diligence as they aim to clearly define the rule, while engaging with stakeholders to ensure the rule is effective.
The CWA requires farmers, ranchers, businesses and local governments to meet certain requirements when conducting operations near “Waters of the United States,” which includes lakes, rivers and wetlands. Following two U.S. Supreme Court rulings on the CWA, the EPA and Army Corps have sought to create a uniform understanding of the waters protected by the CWA. The EPA and Army Corps are attempting to establish a rule that will be more efficient and consistent for businesses, local governments, and the agriculture community.
In the letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and Army Secretary John McHugh, Donnelly wrote, “Clean water is essential to our local communities and economy, and I support efforts to clearly define CWA protections. An unworkable rule will likely halt ongoing water quality improvements and create further bureaucratic confusion; therefore, it is important for the agencies to take the time to ensure the rule avoids unintended negative consequences to existing environmentally-friendly practices in agriculture or property development. The rule should also avoid the negative economic impacts of excessive permitting, especially on small businesses.”
Donnelly cited McCarthy’s November 2013 visit to Johnson County, Indiana, noting that experience showed how Hoosiers understand the role they play as stewards of their land and water. Donnelly noted we all have incentives to invest in clean water, including safe drinking; more productive farms and businesses; and improved hunting, fishing, and recreational opportunities.
Donnelly wrote, “From the feedback that I have received from agricultural, manufacturing, property development, and conservation stakeholders about the proposed rule and interpretive rule, however, I am concerned that the proposed rule as currently written does not meet the intended goal of clarifying the jurisdictional reach of the CWA. I urge the agencies to revise the rule to better protect our national waters from pollution without hampering economic growth.” He added, “…I ask that the agencies continue to work with stakeholders to address their valid concerns, consider input from those on the local level, and fulfill the requirements to study the proposed rule’s impact on small businesses and manufacturers before proposing the rule for another round of public comment.”
To see a copy of the signed letter, click here. Full text of the letter is below.
October 7, 2014
The Honorable Gina McCarthy
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20460
The Honorable John McHugh
Secretary of the Army
101 Army Pentagon
Washington, DC 20310
Dear Administrator McCarthy and Secretary McHugh,
I am writing in regard to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ (Corps) jointly proposed rule defining “Waters of the United States” within the Clean Water Act (CWA) and the interpretive rule regarding CWA exemptions for certain agricultural conservation practices. I appreciate the agencies’ intentions to clarify the jurisdictional coverage of the CWA and the decision to engage in a rulemaking process so stakeholders can have the opportunity to comment and help the agencies produce an effective rule.
Clean water is essential to our local communities and economy, and I support efforts to clearly define CWA protections. An unworkable rule will likely halt ongoing water quality improvements and create further bureaucratic confusion; therefore, it is important for the agencies to take the time to ensure the rule avoids unintended negative consequences to existing environmentally-friendly practices in agriculture or property development. The rule should also avoid the negative economic impacts of excessive permitting, especially on small businesses.
In November 2013, during a visit to Johnson County, Indiana, Administrator McCarthy experienced firsthand the importance of clean water to Hoosiers. We know that water is a shared resource, and we want to improve water quality throughout the country. We all have incentives to invest in clean water, including safe drinking; more productive farms and businesses; and improved hunting, fishing, and recreational opportunities. For these reasons, leading Hoosier agricultural organizations have voluntarily developed a ten-year nutrient management and soil health strategy that will reduce nutrient loss from farms and improve water quality throughout the state.
From the feedback that I have received from agricultural, manufacturing, property development, and conservation stakeholders about the proposed rule and interpretive rule, however, I am concerned that the proposed rule as currently written does not meet the intended goal of clarifying the jurisdictional reach of the CWA. I urge the agencies to revise the rule to better protect our national waters from pollution without hampering economic growth.
Nearly every stakeholder I have heard from has expressed the need for greater clarity for the proposed rule’s key definitions in order to provide certainty to producers, landowners, and developers. Further, I am particularly concerned about the agencies’ claim that the proposed rule will not have a significant impact on small businesses and the decision to skip some of the requirements of the Regulatory Flexibility Act and Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Act as was mentioned by the Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy in its October 1, 2014, letter to the agencies.
Regarding the interpretive rule, I have concerns it will not meet its intended goal of promoting conservation practices and providing certainty for farmers and ranchers. Before the release of the interpretive rule, many Hoosier farmers were unaware that conservation practices could ever trigger CWA permitting requirements. By creating a specific exemption for a certain number of conservation practices, an assumption has been created that without a stated exemption, other conservation practices could require a CWA permit before being implemented. I am particularly concerned about how this might impact conservation efforts that do not involve the National Resource Conservation Service. As a strong supporter of voluntary conservation practices like cover crops and two-stage ditches that improve water quality and crop production, I do not want the fear of permitting to inhibit voluntary conservation practices from being implemented. I ask that you work with conservation stakeholders to improve the interpretive rule so that it will be successful in promoting conservation practices.
Providing a clear understanding of the jurisdictional reach of the CWA is a complicated matter that requires careful consideration and thoughtful discourse with stakeholders throughout the country. I am hopeful the agencies can develop a rule that protects the integrity of the nation’s water without unnecessarily encumbering the economic growth of the regulated community. Administrator McCarthy has publically committed to address issues of concern raised by stakeholders, and it is clear to me that the proposed rule requires further development and clarification in order to achieve its admirable goals. I ask that the agencies continue to work with stakeholders to address their valid concerns, consider input from those on the local level, and fulfill the requirements to study the proposed rule’s impact on small businesses and manufacturers before proposing the rule for another round of public comment.