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ISDA director says Indiana agriculture is at several crossroads right nowISDA director says Indiana agriculture is at several crossroads right now

Ted McKinney sees opportunities for growth but also challenges ahead.

Tom Bechman 1

September 12, 2016

3 Min Read

The awards ceremony for the latest 14 livestock producers to complete voluntary certification as certified livestock producers was the perfect setting for Ted McKinney to talk about agriculture in general, and livestock agriculture in particular. The director of the Indiana State Department of Agriculture believes there is great opportunity for agriculture in the state — especially the livestock sector. But he says challenges come with that opportunity.


ISDA oversees the program that certifies livestock producers who participate on a voluntary basis. The program gives producers an opportunity to review best management practices. Completing the program and receiving certification allows them to demonstrate to the public that they take time to do things right, McKinney said.

“Agriculture is at several crossroads here in Indiana,” the director said. “The opportunities we have to meet people’s needs in agriculture are unbelievable. It’s one thing that helps us continue to recruit companies to come here.

“When it comes to livestock enterprises, Ohio has clamped down on regulation. Illinois has a huge state debt, which causes issues in recruiting companies. We compete well with Michigan and Kentucky. Indiana is in a good position.”

However, challenges include handling environmental issues that come with large livestock enterprises and educating the public about livestock agriculture, McKinney said.

ISDA focus

“We have two major areas of focus at ISDA to help meet these challenges and allow the livestock industry to grow,” McKinney said. “First, we’re lifting up the Indiana Land Resources Council as a group that can provide information to local officials in need of expertise on planning and zoning ordinances.”

The council has been around for several years, but hasn’t always been utilized to the degree that many thought it could be when it started. Early meetings in the beginning emphasized bringing farmers, local officials, builders, real estate people and others together to exchange ideas. Lately, the focus has moved more toward collecting and providing information that can be helpful when local units of government face issues related to zoning for livestock confinement enterprises.

“Counties often want to know where they can go to find out what the best management practices are for these types of operations,” McKinney said. “This council can become more active in providing that type of information so that local officials facing these issues can make more informed decisions.”

Second, McKinney noted that ISDA is completing a new strategic plan for Indiana agriculture. The process of collecting information from various groups and individuals has been ongoing. McKinney is hopeful the strategic plan could be unveiled as early as January.

“It will be another opportunity to lift up agriculture,” he said. “We recognize at ISDA that we don’t have all the answers. We’ve been getting input from lots of different groups and people.”

The bottom line is that there is lots of opportunity for economic development involving agriculture in Indiana, McKinney said. The key, he added, is that things be done in the right way.


About the Author(s)

Tom Bechman 1

Editor, Indiana Prairie Farm

Tom Bechman is an important cog in the Farm Progress machinery. In addition to serving as editor of Indiana Prairie Farmer, Tom is nationally known for his coverage of Midwest agronomy, conservation, no-till farming, farm management, farm safety, high-tech farming and personal property tax relief. His byline appears monthly in many of the 18 state and regional farm magazines published by Farm Progress.

"I consider it my responsibility and opportunity as a farm magazine editor to supply useful information that will help today's farm families survive and thrive," the veteran editor says.

Tom graduated from Whiteland (Ind.) High School, earned his B.S. in animal science and agricultural education from Purdue University in 1975 and an M.S. in dairy nutrition two years later. He first joined the magazine as a field editor in 1981 after four years as a vocational agriculture teacher.

Tom enjoys interacting with farm families, university specialists and industry leaders, gathering and sifting through loads of information available in agriculture today. "Whenever I find a new idea or a new thought that could either improve someone's life or their income, I consider it a personal challenge to discover how to present it in the most useful form, " he says.

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