Governor Mitch Daniels is never at a loss for words. After warming up a state fair audience last week with a story about running out of gas on his motorcycle on the interstate, and showing pictures of him and his wife loving up to farm animals at county fairs, he tucked some meat into his brief message.
"We set out when we started our first term to make agriculture an economic engine for this state, and we still feel that way today," he says. "Frankly, during the campaign before my first election, I felt agriculture had been forgotten as a powerful force in this state, and I vowed to do something about it."
He proved true to his word, helping along with Lt. Governor Skillman as they pushed for an Indiana State Department of Agriculture. One of the goals for the department was to raise the awareness of agriculture in the Indiana economy. Amongst other goals they've achieved, that's certainly something that has occurred.
"Our first strategic plan set out to double pork production, and we've made progress,' he said. But while we were pushing agriculture and seeing it as an economic engine, it seems like leaders in many traditional ag states were putting barriers up for their farmers. Agriculture has apparently slipped in importance on some of those key states, but it's still very important to us, and to Indiana."
The governor cited cases in other states where livestock producers were being saddled with undue regulation from the environmental sector. While he vows to protect water quality and the environment, Daniels also campaigned during his first election drive on shaking things up at the Department of Environmental Management. Farmers complained response times were slow, and decisions were inconsistent. During his first week in office, Daniels cleaned house in the top floor of IDEM. And while there still may be gaps in understanding, the relationship between farmers and regulators appears much more cooperative than it was five to 10 years ago.
Daniels thanked Secretary of Agriculture Skillman and the current ISDA staff for being part of the team that keeps agriculture in the forefront in Indiana. Those team members include Joe Kelsay, Whiteland, Director of ISDA, and Tony Hahn, assistant director. Steve hickey was just named lat week as the first executive director for Indiana FFA to be housed within ISDA.