By ANNIE ROPEIK & NICK JANZEN
More than 250 Indiana Farm Bureau members met in Indianapolis Saturday Aug. 27 to finalize the organization’s 2017 positions on agricultural policy – from land use and environmental protection issues, to education and rural development.
The delegates from each county farm bureau spent about five hours voting on line edits to their official stances. That included adding support for Indiana’s right to farm law, and for a balance between state funds for rural development and money for more urban-centric programs like the Regional Cities Initiative.
Under education policy, delegates agreed to support a “positive portrayal of agriculture” in state K-12 curriculum, and to support policies and grants to eliminate food deserts.
Tiffany Obrecht, president of the Marion County Farm Bureau, which proposed the change, says poor access to fresh food makes it tough to educate urban kids about agriculture, and where food comes from.
"Those conversations become pretty moot very quickly when they literally don't even go to a grocery store to purchase their food. So we're not having conversations about 'milk comes from the grocery store.’ They're not drinking milk," says Obrecht.
Plus, she says the issue will come up again in a national debate over the 2018 Farm Bill. It's a nearly $1 trillion package of federal laws covering everything from food stamps to crop insurance.
Delegates also agreed that municipalities should try to avoid acquiring any type of farmland for development, rather than just avoiding high-quality land.
And they agreed they want to establish a fee on fertilizer to help pay for runoff research. Hancock County Farm Bureau president Jon Sparks spoke in favor of this environmental policy stance.
“If we can have research that is pro-ag and pro-nutrient use going forward,” Sparks says, “it may maintain our ability to do what we need to do in our nutrient management programs at home for a long longer than if we don't do any research and let EPA and the environmental groups mandate what we do."
Overall, the state’s farm bureau delegates voted on multiple policy positions for nearly 150 different topics. The bureau’s leadership board will meet in September to chose which policies are especially high priorities.
On the national level, delegates also voted on goals for the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 2017 policy, including support for term limits for elected officials. Indiana will send four delegates to the national convention in January.