Sue Ellspermann could be Indiana's next Secretary of Agriculture if elected Lt. Governor, running on the ticket with fellow Republican Mike Pence. The position did not exist until the Legislature created the Indiana State Department of Agriculture in 2005. Before that, the duties were similar, but the Lt. Governor had no set staff. There was the Office of the Commissioner of Agriculture, and the Lt. Governor was officially the Commissioner of Agriculture.
Democrat Vi Simpson, John Gregg's running mate, also wants to replace Becky Skilllman as the second Secretary of Agriculture. The following is part II of our interview series with the two candidates for Lt. Governor. (You can view Simpson's interviews here: Part I; Part II)
IPF: If you were elected, how do you envision ISDA?
ELLSPERMANN: We would continue and extend economic development efforts which have been started. Consumers need to be educated about where food comes from. Kids today don't have the same perspective as to where food comes from. My dad wasn't a farmer- he ran a jewelry store in our small town. But he always said that if the farmers didn't have a good year, we wouldn't either. We put a side of beef in the freezer every year. Today many people just eat processed foods.
They don't appreciate agriculture today. The silver lining to the drought might be that people who live in town get a better understanding of just where their food comes from.
IPF: The drought will have devastating effects not only on farmers but rural consumers. What, if anything could you do to address this situation?
ELLSPERMANN: I would see one of ISDA's roles as facilitating things with USDA. Another goal would be to educate farmers as to what help is available.
A farmer's property tax bill next year is going to be a big deal. There have been changes in productivity factors used to determine the assessed value of farmland, and we need to look at that again. We need to make sure that property tax is competitive, and that one group doesn't get an unfair advantage over another.
The Department of Local Government Finance attempted to adjust farmland values even higher, and Farm Bureau, Inc. led an effort to delay it. The issue is still there. We need to work with Farm Bureau and other groups and see what will work at the farm level.
This is part II of Ellspermann's interview series. View part I.