Indiana farmers concerned about water supply, rising property taxes

Farmer's Day at the Indiana State Fair celebrates food production

By Rick Yencer

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA (NEWS) -  Farmer's Day at the Indiana State Fair is the busiest day of the year for Don Villwock, president of the Indiana Farm Bureau.

In the morning, there's a pancake breakfast for farmers where the talk was about a record crop production offered by Purdue University agriculturalists. 

There also were concerns about Indiana water supply and increasing irrigation in northern Indiana where water from glacier made lakes and rivers is plentiful.

And other grain and livestock farmers expressed concerns about local assessors raising the value of farm land when crop prices still make grain farming a break even proposition.

Villwock then goes to a lunch where more farmers talk about the beautiful summer, unlike a couple years ago when drought cut production both in grain and livestock. While future farmers are recognized, Villwock, who farms near coal fields in Edwardsport, thinks about that recent water survey the Farm Bureau did with the Indiana Chamber of Commerce calling for more planning of future water resources.

During an interview, Villwock said Indiana had adequate water supplies although development in Indianapolis and around it could demand more in the future.

That gives way for those who oppose the Mounds Lake initiative in Madison County where a state park, a shopping mall and other residential and business property would become a 2,100 acre reservoir in the next decade, managed by Indianapolis Water Co.

Villwock indicated it's been more than 20 years has passed since the last large reservoir was built. Many in central Indiana were built in the 1960s like Salamonia and Mississenewa with Prairie Creek constructed in the 1950s.

While farmers are considered small users of water, the Farm Bureau believes it is time begin statewide water planning, given water crises in western states.

The issue of property taxes was discussed more than once at farm gathering at the fair and a recent report by Purdue from tax expert Larry DeBoer who projected a 50 percent increase for taxes on farm land in the next five years.

Villwock said the Farm Bureau recently talked with Gov. Mike Pence to get changes in the tax formula used to assess farm land. That effort will be taken to lawmakers and Republican leaders who control the Indiana House and Senate.

With grain prices low and corn anticipated at $3.50 a bushel at harvest time, it will be a break even year for farmers.

And the last thing farmers need is a big hike in property taxes over the next few growing seasons.

"It has the makings of the perfect storm," said Villwock.

Go to www.indianafarmbureau.org for other information about the hands that feed Hoosiers.

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