Several important agriculture-related topics were discussed at Saturday's (Feb. 22) Tri-County Legislative Breakfast hosted by Franklin, Union and Fayette County Farm Bureaus. 

State Senator Jean Leising (R-Oldenburg) said Senate Bill 438, authored by Leising and Susan Glick (R-LaGrange), was allegedly the ag bill for this year's Indiana General Assembly session. 

The bill pertains to regulating the use of pesticides and their application. The main issue at hand involves Dicamba, a volatile Bayer/Monsanto herbicide that effectively kills weeds but creates a drift that negatively impacts commodities such as grapes or tomatoes or even trees. 
Leising provided more background.

“The Office of Indiana State Chemist and the Indiana Pesticide Review Board last summer started looking at Dicamba drift after numerous violations,” she explained. “They decided last fall, through filing a federal form 24(c), they would enact more stringent (requirements) for Dicamba than the Environmental Protection Agency requirements on the label.”

Part of that is an established cutoff date of June 20. Use of the product after that date in Indiana is subject to fines based on a point system per violation. The senator said the fines could also extend to people who spray their yards, golf course maintenance and utility companies. 

Dicamba is not mentioned specifically in the bill, which is headed to conference committee to work out language differences between it and House Bill 1119. 

“I want to hear from you guys if you have feelings about this product,” Leising said to the audience. “My biggest concern is filing the 24(c) form sets a precedent. What's going to be the next thing that the (IPRB) says they don't want you to use anymore?”

Senate Bill 184 (Leising one of three authors, Sen. Jeff Raatz, R-Richmond, a co-author) would establish conditions an organization must meet to qualify as a nonprofit agricultural body, as it pertains to health insurance coverage.

It passed 49-0 on the senate floor and gets its final hearing Feb. 26 to pass out of the house insurance committee. 

“We have to get the law passed before we can finish what we offer to our members,” said Kermit Paris of Indiana Farm Bureau District 8. 
Representative Cindy Ziemke (R-Batesville) said she spoke with bill sponsor Martin Carbaugh (R-Fort Wayne), who seemed confident it would be voted out.

One bill that lost momentum was S.B. 229, which called for the self-maintenance of regulated drains in lieu of a required permit from Indiana Department of Environmental Management. 

“It was a good bill that would have helped you all greatly,” said Raatz. “If there were (wetland) issues, you could fix them yourselves.”

The bill was filed by Sen. Victoria Spartz (R-Noblesville), who is now running – along with 15 other Republicans – for the US congressional seat vacated by Susan Brooks. 

A question was posed about the regulation and zoning of confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs).

Raatz emphasized he wanted to see more local control of the issue, rather than state involvement. 

Paris gave an example in Union County, when people were arguing setbacks for CAFOs should be eight miles, thus basically eliminating them. He said there are 8-10 such operations within three miles of his home in Rush County and the “stream through my property is crystal clear.”

About hemp, this will be the second of two research license years for those growing the product. Both Leising and Representative Randy Lyness (R-West Harrison) said there are many instances being reported of the hemp exceeding the .03% maximum limit of THC, the psychoactive element of cannabis. 

“It's certainly a concern if rules aren't followed,” said Leising. “With the makeup of our legislature and (Governor Eric Holcomb), there wouldn't be support for medical or recreational marijuana bills.”

Another bill mentioned was S.B. 20, which lays out rules for those serving on area plan commissions. It would allow a county extension educator who lives outside the county to continue to serve. This passed the Senate and is currently being read as H.B. 1014.

Leising also said those in attendance should be “jumping up and down with joy” over the new POET ethanol biorefinery in Shelby County. 

“They're taking corn deliveries now,” she said. “Depending on demand, this could mean a 10 cent or more premium per bushel.”

For more on any bills in the General Assembly, visit iga.in.gov/legislative/2020/bills.