The Indiana legislative session is underway, and with it come several new bills that could impact the state’s agribusiness industry.

State of the Statehouse

The 2015 Indiana legislative session kicked off on January 6, 2015. Republicans hold expanded super-majorities in both houses of the General Assembly this session. This session is a “long session” in which the State budget for the next two years will be set.

The bill filing deadline recently passed and, as expected, there are a number of bills pending that will impact Indiana agribusiness.

Proposed Legislation

House Bill 1549, Grain Buyer & Warehouse Operators, has moved out of the House Agriculture Committee and was passed without opposition out of the House.  The bill reorganized provisions of the grain indemnity fund and administrative expense account, places a $250,000 cap on administrative funding from the account, and raises the fund’s cap to collect premiums for the program from $15 million to $25 million. The bill, strongly supported by the Agribusiness Council of Indiana, Indiana Farm Bureau, Indiana Soybean Alliance and Indiana Corn Growers Association and others, comes as a response to high grain prices in past years which have strained the fund’s ability to protect grain producers in the event of a major default. The bill currently does not face organized opposition.

Three bills were introduced this year that, if passed, would require labels on any food product intended for human consumption that contained genetically modified ingredients. All three bills - House Bill 1460, Senate Bill 60 and Senate Bill 264 - have been moved to committee but will not be giving hearings.

A bill attracting a great deal of attention is Senate Bill 249, Regulation of Animal Agriculture.  The bill, authored by Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Jean Leising, would have prohibited counties, towns, and municipalities from establishing anti-CAFO ordinances.  While intended to combat the "Not In My Backyard" (NIMBY) problem faced by many livestock producers around the state, the bill drew significant criticism from those who saw it as infringing upon the right of local government to control development.  SB 249 was amended heavily in the Senate Agriculture Committee on February 3.  Chairwoman Leising amended her own bill in committee to remove all effective language and replace it with a mandate for the Purdue University College of Agriculture and Purdue Extension to conduct a study on the effects of local land ordinances on livestock housing. The amended bill passed its second reading February 5, and will be eligible for its final Senate vote on February 9.

In addition to the foregoing, bills related to the implementation of soil productivity factors for property tax purposes and feeding animal by-products to swine are also moving forward.