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Indiana legislature passes bills for ag land purchases, broadband grants
By Michele F. Mihaljevich
Indiana Correspondent

INDIANAPOLIS – From the perspective of Randy Kron, president of Indiana Farm Bureau (INFB), the recently completed Indiana General Assembly session gave the organization several – but not all – of the things it wanted for Hoosier farmers.
The short session ended March 8. INFB-supported legislation that passed included measures limiting who can buy farmland in the state, a requirement for a new Indiana Drainage Handbook, and a framework to administer federal broadband grants. Bills on water quantity and to make changes to the farmland formula did not make it to the desk of Gov. Eric Holcomb for his signature.
“I’m proud of what we were able to accomplish this short session and always impressed by how much legislators lean on INFB to advise them on bills that could impact agriculture and our rural communities,” Kron told Farm World. “Although not all the bills we supported passed, a lot of groundwork was laid for big discussions during the budget session of 2025.”
House Bill 1183 passed through the legislature, and Holcomb signed it March 15. The measure bars prohibited people from purchasing or leasing agricultural land in the state. Prohibited people will not be allowed to purchase real property located in the state, and located within a 10-mile radius of a military installation, with certain exceptions. The legislation defines prohibited people as those who are citizens of a foreign adversary as determined by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce: China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Russia and Venezuela.
The bill grandfathers all current and past transactions, and takes effect July 1, 2024.
“This was a major priority for INFB this year as it would protect the safety of Hoosiers from banning the sale of land to foreign adversarial countries,” Kron explained. “It would help preserve Indiana farmland and it would protect our food security.”
The bill was co-sponsored by Rep. Kendell Culp (R-16th district), who has served as INFB vice president since 2016.
During a Jan. 29 meeting of the House agriculture and rural development committee, Culp said, “This not just an agriculture or rural issue. This is a food security issue. We cannot afford to lose control – even a fraction – of our food supply because if we do, then it becomes a national security issue.”
He has said 2.4 percent – 438,000 acres – of Indiana’s farmland is owned by a foreign entity.
Chris Daley, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, spoke against the bill in the same committee session. He said his organization understands there is ongoing concern about large land purchases in the state.
Since the bill is directed toward certain individuals, it raises concerns about unlawful national origin discrimination. The list of foreign adversaries provided by the commerce department applies to foreign governments and not individuals born in those countries, Daley said.
“Some of those individuals support their governments and others do not, including those who have fled from their home countries,” he noted. “Citizens from all of these countries live lawfully in Indiana, they contribute to our economy and community well being. Yet, if this bill becomes law, they will be unable to participate as owners in farming in our state.”
Another piece of INFB-supported legislation that passed through the General Assembly includes a requirement the Indiana State Department of Agriculture make preparations to update the Indiana Drainage Handbook. The bill also sets guidelines for the removal of logjams from rivers and streams. The legislation was signed by the governor March 13.
Kron said HB 1277 – signed by Holcomb March 12 – is the administration of the federal Broadband Equity Access and Deployment program. The bill sets the framework to administer the $868 million in broadband grants Indiana received from the federal government, he said. INFB is excited for how that will impact the state’s rural areas that have been unserved or underserved with internet connectivity for too long, Kron added.
Some regulations for agritourism facilities were eased under HB 1106, he pointed out.
“It ends the Department of Homeland Security permits and inspections that were previously needed unless the facility has a reported problem or complaint,” Kron said. “This issue came up because of some small ‘rides’ agritourism facilities may have up for a month or two during their busy season (were) being regulated as much as a large fair or amusement park.”
Holcomb signed the bill March 12.
As for INFB-supported legislation that didn’t pass during the session, Kron mentioned water quantity.
“We’re grateful for the legislators who presented new water policy hoping to start the process of enacting change in areas where Indiana sorely needs it,” he said. “Ultimately, no major water policy was added this year and that’s OK. I think we need more information and more time to create a framework that makes sense. Creating water policy is something we need to get right, not fast.”
Taxes were a major focus for INFB during the session as the organization supported legislation changing the farmland formula, Kron said. Ultimately, the language farm bureau supported on the farmland formula change ended up as a charge to do a summer study committee on the topic, he said.
“We really fought for a change in the farmland formula in Senate Bill 256 this session,” Kron explained. “There was a 17 percent increase in farmland taxes in 2023 and there will be a 27 percent increase for 2024. Farmers cannot sustain those attacks on their bottom line. We’re hopeful we can get this taken care of in the 2025 session, but there’s still some work to be done.”

3/19/2024