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Rural broadband, hunger relief addressed by FB delegates

More than 260 delegates from all corners of the state gathered in Indianapolis over the weekend to determine policy positions of Indiana Farm Bureau.

“This is our most important meeting of the year. Our policy is grassroots driven and the August delegate session focuses our advocacy efforts for 2017,” said INFB President Randy Kron.

Both state and federal policies were hashed over on Saturday. Delegates, who came from all 92 counties, considered many issues including saving prime farmland, funding for Clean Water Indiana, electric demand fees, nutrient research and stewardship fees, food deserts, educational opportunities and the critical need for cell and broadband service in rural Indiana.

“While farmers are grateful for the important property tax relief that the General Assembly passed in 2016, we will always be working on property tax assessment concerns,” said Kron.

Delegates unanimously supported a continued push for increased road funding. Farmers rely on quality roads for transporting commodities and equipment. INFB policy encourages the General Assembly to increase funding for state and local roads and bridges in addition to increasing fuel taxes. Delegates also added language that supports shifting current sales tax on fuel for road construction and maintenance.

“Our members are concerned with infrastructure in the broadest sense, including the need for high-speed broadband in rural areas,” Kron said. “Broadband ‘to-the-last-mile’ is critically important so that educational and economic opportunities are available to all of rural Indiana. It’s time to do something transformational, just as rural electrification did in the 1930s.”

Delegates also approved language that supports policies and programs to help eliminate food deserts. A food desert is defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as a low-income area where a substantial number of residents have little or no access to a supermarket or large grocery store.

“Food deserts are a very serious issue for low-income families whose dollars do not go as far when they are forced to purchase food at a gas station or convenience store because there is no grocery nearby. Those food options are not only more expensive, but they are also generally less nutritious,” said Kron.

At the federal level, the delegates added language opposing reductions to federal crop insurance programs. More input on the farm bill will be gathered from the grassroots members this fall and considered at INFB’s convention in December. Recommendations on national policy will be sent to American Farm Bureau Federation for consideration during the AFBF annual meeting, which will be held in January.

Hoosier farmers need Farm Bureau to support policy that works to provide a safety-net when needed and advocate for a regulatory environment that will create opportunities for the next generation, said Kron. “As we face more challenging economic times, the members of Indiana Farm Bureau will need to strengthen the organization’s advocacy efforts at the local, state and national levels,” he said.