Local farmers say bad road conditions are hurting business

BOONE COUNTY, Ind. (WISH) —   State lawmakers are set to discuss a road funding bill on Tuesday morning. House Bill 1002 would raise the gas tax by $0.10 per gallon and add a new vehicle registration fee.

The bill has already made it through the House and now a Senate committee is considering it. A hearing is scheduled for 9:00 a.m. Tuesday.

There are many different ideas about how to pay for road repairs. While not everyone agrees how to do it, farmers told 24-Hour News 8 they just hope lawmakers do something because bad road conditions are hurting business.

Don Lamb runs Lamb Farms in Boone County. Lamb’s father started the farm in the 1960s.

“We haul corn out every month of the year. Even though we harvest corn in the fall, they need food ingredients for 12 months of the year,” said Lamb.

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Workers on the farm load up semis every day to deliver corn throughout the state. Lamb said the roads are in such poor condition, it’s slowing down business.

“There are lots of places in Boone County that we can’t drive our truck because the bridge is not rated for that heavy of a load,” said Lamb.

Finding workarounds eats up time and agriculture attorney Amy Cornell tells 24-Hour News 8 that time is money.

“In time sensitive periods, such as planting an harvest where every minute counts, it can be very detrimental to a farming business,” said Cornell.

Lamb said he realizes farmers are, at least in part, reaping what they’ve sown as technology has changed.

“We use semi trucks for everything that we do now. We used to use tractors and wagons when things are smaller. It’s just changed in how much demand and use we put on the roads,” said Lamb.

“There are some instances in Indiana that the roads are so poor and the county funding is so strapped, they’re having to return paved roads back to gravel,” said Cornell.

Lamb doesn’t claim to have the right solution to the problem.

“We all hate it when we say ‘tax increase’…but there are also times we need to realize, it is what it is. If there needs to be more resources put into something we’ve got to get it somewhere,” said Lamb.

Lamb said something needs to change in order to pave the way for the next generation of Indiana farmers.

“I’m the second generation farmer, I’m hoping we have third. All of what we do is investing in the future — just making sure we can have good roads, a good way to get our product to market. Whether it’s 10 years from now or 20 years from now, we need to be making those plans now,” said Lamb.

Cornell said if roads continue to crumble, it will eventually mean higher food prices in the grocery store.

“If farmers do not have quality local roads, they cannot get their products to market, they cannot service the middle supply chain to the agro-business industry. In the end that trickles down to the consumer,” said Cornell.

This month, Boone County hired a company to inspect all of its bridges. The inspections are part of an INDOT mandate and could take about four years.

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