While celebrating 100 years, the Indiana Farm Bureau leadership is looking to the future and what needs to be done to continue advocating for Hoosier farmers. The organization presented its top legislative priority over the weekend: expanding health benefits available to the agriculture industry in the state.
Attendees at this year’s annual state convention were asked to share their health care stories in a video booth.
Jacob Smoker is a farmer in northern Indiana and chairs the state's Young Farmers and Ag Professionals group. He says health care costs have been extremely difficult for his family and others.
“Incomes are at historic lows right now and it’s tough out there,” says Smoker. “And you hate to see sole proprietors, guys and girls both that this is their whole life, they’ve not had anything else, and their making a choice right now of ‘are we going to put food on the table or are we gonna fix a medical problem?'”
In a recent survey of its members, the Indiana Farm Bureau found that about 80 percent of Hoosier farmers are working owners with no employees.
Before offering policies, legislation is needed to change current state law regarding association health care plans that require two or more employees to be able to offer coverage.
Indiana Farm Bureau President Randy Kron says the goal is to offer health care more affordable than what is offered on the marketplace.
“Because most of our members end up being sole proprietors going to the marketplace which you know is extremely expensive and I’ve had multiple ones of you tell me it’s not very good insurance, it’s high deductibles, and I’m paying a fortune,” says Kron.
He says there could be some opposition from healthcare companies not wanting competition. But he doesn’t expect it to derail their efforts.
Other legislative priorities this session include continuing to expand rural broadband and protect property rights.