By Michele F. Mihaljevich
INDIANAPOLIS – Renewable energy projects, farmland usage and broadband accessibility are some of the top concerns of Indiana Farm Bureau (INFB) members, according to a survey done by the organization earlier this year.
The annual survey is part of INFB’s policy development process, said Andy Tauer, INFB executive director of public policy. The survey was done in March and results were released in April. More than 1,200 responses were received.
Sixty four percent of respondents said they support renewable energy projects in their county. Nearly 70 percent said they didn’t want those projects happening on farmland and “were very concerned or extremely concerned about farmland being transitioned away from agriculture for renewable energy projects,” INFB said.
Tauer said INFB members are supportive of renewable energy but at the same time they have a desire to maintain farmland for the production of crops.
“The question many of our members are asking is, ‘Where is it most appropriate to implement renewable energy projects?’ We’ve always been big proponents of private property rights, and that won’t change, but this reaffirms our focus on land use and farmland loss.
“New legislation passed this session from Rep. Kendell Culp (R-16th district) will inventory Indiana’s lost farmland and analyze how our land is being used. That data will hopefully help us answer some of those tough questions.”
As for broadband, more than 60 percent of respondents said they had not seen improvement in connectivity over the last year.
“We saw about a third of our members indicate an improvement in their connectivity,” Tauer noted. “So many of the initiatives our members have been engaged in at the local and state level are showing a positive impact. Broadband will continue to be an important issue for INFB going forward. We hope to continue to see year-over-year improvement in connectivity for our members across the state.”
The survey found respondents were also concerned with the condition of the state’s roads and bridges.
“Quality infrastructure is key for our members to have the ability to get the products they raise to market,” Tauer explained. “With increased investment at the state and federal level, we’re seeing some improvement in our rural communities.”
Respondents said the biggest issues they’re concerned will impact farm profitability over the next 24 months are inflation, input prices, lower commodity prices and increased regulation.
“At the time the survey was sent out, we were still awaiting the decisions of two major U.S. Supreme Court cases, Waters of the United States (WOTUS) and (California’s) Proposition 12,” Tauer said. “We now have the Prop 12 ruling that has been upheld, which has the potential to create a lot of challenges for our members who raise livestock.
“In addition to these two issues, our members are concerned about how regulations coming from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will impact them on their farms and communities.
Nearly all the survey respondents – 95 percent – said they play an important role in addressing food access and security. Eighty eight percent said the U.S. should expand international trade for agriculture.
“We didn’t see any major surprises (in the survey),” Tauer said. “However, we now have additional data to support many of the anecdotal conversations we’ve had with members throughout the year on topics like property rights, farmland preservation and renewable energy.”