Mike Starkey isn't afraid to invite anyone to his farm. When he found out a group from the Nature Conservancy wanted to visit, he took time, even on the last day of harvest, to give them a full tour of his operation. And since they were coming, he invited his state senator, Pete Miller, to come along. Both Starkey and Miller live near Brownsburg.
Inviting Miller wasn't surprising, because Starkey has also hosted U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelley on his farm in the past. That was after the drought, when he and farmers wanted to talk to the senator about the advantages that no-tillers were bringing to the table for the environment, especially those who grew cover crops.
This time he wanted Miller to see his cover crops too. He also showed him his planter and sprayer, two of his most important and most expensive pieces of equipment, and his combine, which was running in the field, finishing up a poor harvest. Miller saw the good, the not-so-good and all the challenges farmers face.
Ironically, he had just come from a summer study committee meeting at the statehouse in Indianapolis. The topic was related to taxation. Starkey made sure to talk about property taxes and the challenge they represent for both farmers and landowners. Someday he would like to see the legislature give tax credit on property taxes to farmers who improve soil health and decrease soil erosion through no-till and cover crops. Starkey believes it would be a benefit to both farmers who go the extra mile to improve soil health, and to landowners who have tenants who use those practices.
Miller says summer study committee hearings will conclude soon. The organization day at the statehouse for the 2016 Indiana General Assembly will take place in mid-November. The 2016 session is the long session of the legislature which includes forming a state budget for the next two years.