Most of you became familiar with Julia Wickard while she served as director of the Indiana Farm Service Agency. She was instrumental in working with her staff at the state and county levels to make sure farmers understood their choices when the last farm bill included totally new options.
With the change in administrations in Washington, D.C., Wickard has moved on to a new position. She agreed to share thoughts about her new role, and about agriculture and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management in a series of interviews with Indiana Prairie Farmer. Here is the first in that series.
What is your position at the Indiana Department of Environmental Management? I am the director of government affairs and the agricultural liaison with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management. The agricultural liaison position has been at IDEM since the mid-1990s.
How does your past experience prepare you for this new role? I’m excited to be on the IDEM team and to help producers, farmers, agribusiness and other stakeholders navigate the agency. I love agriculture, the state of Indiana and public service. This position gives me the opportunity to marry those things together to help Indiana citizens get answers to their questions, and to also serve as a resource to the Indiana agricultural community and industry. My prior service in state government and most recently in the federal government, along with my not-for-profit professional experience, has prepared me well for this exciting and challenging role. I do look forward to helping citizens and agriculture in whatever way needed.
What goals do you have in this position? My goals are simple — I want to be an advocate for the agency and be a resource to Indiana’s citizens. What we find most of the time when questions arise about IDEM’s role is that citizens do not understand what authorities IDEM has as it relates to agriculture. It will be my duty and responsibility to share IDEM’s jurisdictional oversight responsibilities with the public. I look forward to being the communication link between the agricultural community and IDEM.
Is part of your role communicating policies about IDEM, or is it becoming involved when farmers and IDEM clash, or both? Again, communication is key. In all my prior professional positions, I believe I have been seen by my colleagues and peers as a communicator, bridge-builder and link between groups. This position does all those things and more. There may be times when there is a need to facilitate a discussion between IDEM and the farmer and/or agricultural community. I believe, at the end of the day, we all want the same thing. We want the ability to do our jobs, be prosperous, and while always taking care of the environment for this and future generations.
At one time IDEM was viewed as an adversary by many farmers. That started to change when Mitch Daniels was governor. What is the general attitude of IDEM toward farmers today? Our relationship with the agriculture community has never been stronger. It will be my responsibility to continue to cultivate and grow these partnerships. IDEM also has the opportunity to help educate and inform farmers about environmentally sound operations which remain vital to Indiana’s economy.
Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of articles about Julia Wickard and IDEM. Watch the Indiana Prairie Farmer website for the second article.