Ag issues, feathers weighed by legislators

Monday, March 21, 2011

Farm-related issues -- from agri-tourism to drainage tile to feathers -- were plucked from the list of 2011 legislative issues addressed Saturday morning at the Farm Bureau Boardroom in Greencastle.

With the Putnam County Farm Bureau sponsoring the public session, agricultural activity emerged as a natural topic for State Rep. Jim Baird (R-Greencastle) and State Sen. Connie Lawson (R-Danville) to discuss.

House Bill 1133, which addresses agri-tourism, is reportedly awaiting only the governor's signature before becoming law. It limits the liability of working farm operations like Fair Oaks Farms in Jasper County in northwest Indiana should someone get hurt while visiting the site. Not only is Fair Oaks a tourist stop with a restaurant along Interstate 65, it is also a real working farm operation and Indiana's largest dairy farm.

Sen. Lawson noted that her family has horse interests and is impacted by the bill as well. Owners of such farm operations will have to put up warning signs about inherent dangers of their daily activities, according to the legislation.

Steve Cash of the Putnam County Farm Bureau, who moderated the morning program, reminded the group that local operations also would be impacted by the measure. "We have the buffalo (operation) here, and the elk farm," Cash noted in reference to the English Buffalo and Keeton Elk farms.

Meanwhile, another ag-related measure, SB 419, would make the purchase of elements of a farm drainage system exempt from state sales tax. Neighboring states already exempt such items as drainage tile used in farm operations. That puts Indiana businesses at a disadvantage when farm operations purchase drainage tile or other ag-related objects. Rep. Baird noted.

The group also addressed HB 1386, which provides for certification of commercial feed to assure the feed marketed for export conforms to content guidelines. Currently the feed tag only requires calcium and protein listings.

What can happen, Cash and Baird pointed out, is that feathers, which are rich in protein but of little other value, are often added to the feed.

The feathers can raise the amount of protein of the feed product overall but are of no value to the animal because feathers are highly indigestible, Baird said.

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