Voice for rural Hoosier communities

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By Richard Young Jr., State Senator

Encompassing nearly 15 million acres across Indiana, farmland covers more than 64 percent of the state, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. The state’s 61,000 farms generate nearly $25 billion in economic activity and 16 percent of Indiana’s workforce earns a living from professions related to agriculture, as reported by the Indiana Farm Bureau. The issues facing the 1.4 million Hoosiers living in rural areas are vitally important, and undoubtedly have an oversized impact on the state’s economy. With this in mind, rural legislators from across the state joined together to serve as a voice for rural Hoosier communities.

Formed in 2009, the bipartisan Indiana Rural Caucus has worked to address the unique challenges rural Indiana communities face, including those related to demographic changes, job creation, capital access, infrastructure, land use and community and historic preservation. As a founding member, although lawmakers may represent differing localities and political parties, we are often united by common issues.

This past session, rural legislators took steps to slow a sudden upsurge in property taxes on agricultural land. The measure, which was the first to be signed into law, now requires land surveyors to use the same factors to determine soil productivity that were used before March 2011, when surveying methods changed for the first time since the 1970s.

It’s more than just agricultural issues. For rural communities to remain an economic force, as well as a sustainable place to raise a family, we must ensure access to vital services. The internet underpins the 21st century economy and is considered a given in most corners of the state. However, only 41 percent of Hoosiers have access to broadband with connection speeds of at least 3-megabytes-per-second, according to a report from the Congressional Research Service. Limited broadband connectivity forces entrepreneurial Hoosiers to take their ideas elsewhere when looking to launch their start up. In 2011, when Indiana opened access to physicians through the state’s Rural Health Plan, they found Perry, Spencer and Crawford counties ranked near the bottom. In addition, the state’s infant- mortality rate is one of the highest in the United States.

Fortunately, we can take action to combat these adversities. I will continue work with my colleagues in the General Assembly and Rural Caucus members to advance common sense solutions, like incentivizing Hoosier physicians to start practices in rural communities and taking steps to expand the state’s broadband network.

These issues are critical to every Hoosier and I encourage you share your ideas on these issues. Please contact me at (800) 382-9467 or s47@iga.in. gov.

Young represents Senate District 47 which encompasses portions of Perry, Crawford, Dubois, Harrison, Orange and Washington counties. For more information on Sen. Young, his legislative agenda or other State Senate business, call (800) 382-9467 or visit www. IN. gov/s47.