Agriculture is a fundamental part of Indiana, contributing more than $31 billion dollars to our economy each year. While farming is predominantly practiced in rural areas of our state, we have recently seen an increased interest in urban agriculture, which enables communities to work together to provide fresh produce for Hoosier families.
It is estimated that more than 200,000 residents in Indianapolis alone live in a food desert – an urban area in which it is difficult to buy affordable fresh food. To help alleviate this issue, I am sponsoring House Bill 1283, which would allow any Hoosier to apply to have an area of land, such as an abandoned lot, designated as an "urban agricultural zone." The land could then be used for growing produce.
When applying for the urban agricultural zone designation, the applicant would need to verify the agricultural products they plan to grow on the property.
There would need to be a public hearing or other public testimony for the area to be designated as an urban agricultural zone prior to the local jurisdiction making any decision. The municipality could then grant full or partial property tax credit and discounted water and electric rates if they choose.
Similar legislation has been adopted in Louisiana, Missouri, Utah, California and Kansas. Passing HB 1283 would not only contribute to Indiana's local economies, but would also help alleviate food insecurity in urban areas, provide urban green spaces and source local produce to restaurants in the area. In addition, this initiative would give young Hoosiers from urban areas more exposure to careers in agriculture, science and nutrition.
The urban agriculture movement has been likened to the wartime victory gardens of WWII, when countless families planted vegetable gardens not only to provide food for themselves, but to boost morale. The health, environmental and economic benefits of community gardening are many, and this legislation will make it easier for Hoosiers to establish an urban agriculture area in their neighborhood.
HB 1283 recently passed the Senate and has been returned to the House of Representatives for further review. To learn more about HB 1283, you can visit iga.in.gov.