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Will Hoosiers recognize farmland loss as an issue?Will Hoosiers recognize farmland loss as an issue?

Hoosier Perspectives: People don’t appear to be on the same page about loss of farmland being a threat.

Tom J. Bechman

October 2, 2023

3 Min Read
A paved road with farmland on the right side and a warehouse under development on the left side
GONE: The land on the left side of the road where a warehouse now sits was once productive farmland in central Indiana. Tom J. Bechman

My wife, Carla, cringes every time she heads off to either of the Interstate 65 entrances nearest our house. She must pass multiple new warehouses to get to them. This farm wife sees red, because she sees once-productive land that now only serves as a base for concrete edifices and blacktop parking lots.

That’s why radio co-hosts of a popular Indianapolis Saturday morning talk show, “Home and Garden,” didn’t know what they were getting into in their next call a few weeks ago. Some favorable comments about development in the Indianapolis area prompted Carla to call.

“How can we help you?” one of them asked.

“When those houses or warehouses go up, that land will never come back into production,” Carla said over the airwaves. “Farmers grow crops and food there. If we build on too much farmland, we may not have enough to eat someday.”

Not one world

How did they react? Concerned? Respectful? No, in Carla’s opinion, they were downright flippant. Almost chuckling, one asked the other, “Have you heard anything about running out of farmland?”

“No, I don’t think that will happen,” the other responded.

They ended Carla’s call before she could offer a rebuttal, but the point was clear. Carla may consider loss of farmland a critical issue, but not everyone does. Obviously, some believe it’s no concern at all.

Related:Land use in Indiana grabs more attention

Here’s the real irony. A few weeks earlier on the same radio station, during a daily talk show, two different hosts invited guests representing farmers into the studio.

In fact, the guests own land in Boone County, Ind., where a project sponsored directly by the state of Indiana has tied up several thousand acres for future development, with construction already underway on a new facility for Eli Lilly & Co. They shared their concern, and the sympathetic hosts inferred that yes, this is a problem.

Moving toward debate?

Those who believe Hoosiers should be concerned about how many subdivisions and warehouses have sprouted up were encouraged when Kendell Culp, Rensselaer, Ind., a farmer, vice president of Indiana Farm Bureau and a state representative, authored two bills related to land use in this spring’s Indiana General Assembly. Both passed. One requires the Indiana State Department of Agriculture to complete an inventory of farmland lost in Indiana over the past two decades and document its new use. The second bill created a land use task force, which has already held its first meeting.

However, Darrell Boone, a contributor for Indiana Prairie Farmer, attended a recent workshop about land use where Culp and others, including a developer and a conservation-minded leader, presented their views (see related story above).

You will learn that there appeared to be as much discussion about the need for development to keep Indiana strong as there was concern about losing farmland. The difference, however, was a strong desire to see smart growth, where no more land than necessary is converted to development.

Time will tell what comes out of the land use inventory and the task force. From where we sit, it appears the first goal should be reaching a consensus that loss of farmland vs. development is a critical issue that should be addressed — now!

Read more about:

FarmlandLand Management

About the Author(s)

Tom J. Bechman

Editor, Indiana Prairie Farmer, Farm Progress

Tom J. Bechman is editor of Indiana Prairie Farmer. He joined Farm Progress in 1981 as a field editor, first writing stories to help farmers adjust to a difficult harvest after a tough weather year. His goal today is the same — writing stories that help farmers adjust to a changing environment in a profitable manner.

Bechman knows about Indiana agriculture because he grew up on a small dairy farm and worked with young farmers as a vocational agriculture teacher and FFA advisor before joining Farm Progress. He works closely with Purdue University specialists, Indiana Farm Bureau and commodity groups to cover cutting-edge issues affecting farmers. He specializes in writing crop stories with a focus on obtaining the highest and most economical yields possible.

Tom and his wife, Carla, have four children: Allison, Ashley, Daniel and Kayla, plus eight grandchildren. They raise produce for the food pantry and house 4-H animals for the grandkids on their small acreage near Franklin, Ind.

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