Ted McKinney may have a new boss, but it doesn’t seem to have affected the direction he wants to take agriculture, and where he sees agriculture taking Indiana, one bit. McKinney is director of the Indiana State Department of Agriculture. His new boss is Indiana’s Lt. Governor and Secretary of Agriculture, Eric Holcomb.
Speaking to nearly 500 farmers at the Shelby County Ag Day event, he laid out seven reasons why Indiana is a great place for both farmers and ag businesses. These will all be elements in the new strategic plan for Indiana agriculture coming out later this spring, he noted.
1. Economic development is good for agriculture, good for Indiana.
“Indiana has long been called the crossroads of America because interstates dissect the center of the state, but it is much more than that,” he says. “We have I-64 running across southern Indiana and being a conduit for commerce. We also have some of the largest hubs for air freight in the country.”
2. Indiana has infrastructure necessary to move goods, and must continue to have good infrastructure.
He specifically referred to rural roads and bridges. It’s obvious after debate this legislative session that this will remain a hot button in future sessions.
3. Career development will be important to future of agriculture in Indiana
There is more to career development than just making sure students who want to attend college have good choices. The state also needs to continue to have strong vocational training programs.
4. Leadership development must continue.
Both 4-H and FFA programs lay a good groundwork for developing leadership in people interested in agriculture, McKinney notes. In addition agriculture needs to continue to encourage other leadership development efforts, such as the Indiana Farm Bureau Young Farmers program.
5. Protecting water quality and the environment are very important.
“We are doing great things and there is a lot happening, particularly in the Lake Erie basin,” he says. Indiana’s portion of the basin is in northeast Indiana.
6. Public relations is important for agriculture
“Ag people need to continue talking to and educating consumers,” he says.
7. Innovation will continue to happen in Indiana in agriculture.
McKinney says Hoosiers sometimes take the amount of innovation that exists in this state for granted. For example, one of his former employers, Elanco, is the second largest veterinary medicine company in the world, he notes.