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Serving: IN

New Direction for Indiana Department of Ag Not Really New

Emphasis shifts some but goals remain the same.

The words may be different and the strategy spelled out in different terms, but the overall direction for the Indiana State Department of Agriculture seems to be the same as it was four years ago when ISDA was first created. It's to support agriculture and help develop an even more profitable ag industry in Indiana, while maintaining environmental stewardship at the same time.

Anne Hazlett, ISDA Director, chose Kelsay and Sons dairy farm near Whiteland to introduce the new strategy last week. Joe has completed the certified livestock producer program, a voluntary effort to promote stewardship offered through the auspices of state government, He and his wife, Amy, are active in activities supporting agriculture and milk production all around Indiana.

"We're trying to build on successes ISDA has enjoyed so far," Hazlett told a large crowd of farmers and government officials. "We've decided to break our plan and goals into three basic areas: advocacy for agriculture, economic opportunity, and environmental stewardship."

If one of the pieces of the strategy is truly new, it's the advocacy portion. However, ISDA has taken positions as an advocate, or supporter, for agriculture for some time. Having someone to support agriculture and be its' advocate was one of the key points Don Villwock stressed when he helped promote the idea of creating a department of agriculture five years ago. Villwock is president of Indiana Farm Bureau.

"Whether it's telling the true story about climate change or battling false information such as H1N1 can go from hogs to other species, agriculture needs someone to tell its story," Hazlett says. "It also needs someone to represent its interests when new regulations are developed, and in the legislative process."

Expect ISDA to talk about 'Outreach,' or telling ag's story to non-ag audiences. If the term reminds you of Extension, it's not surprising. Only this time the targeted clientele are consumers, not farm families in particular.

As for promoting economic opportunities, Hazlett points to bioenergy, still believing it has great potential. But she wants the department to look beyond state and even federal borders as well. "We want to capitalize on the trade missions and groundwork efforts already done in Governor Daniels first term," she says. There have been eight trade missions so far between those headed by either Daniels or Lt. Governor Becky Skillman. Many of the contacts have involved agricultural products.

Expect to see a continued effort to promote and market Indiana's hardwoods industry. It was also a key strategy in the original plan outlined four years ago. "We also see opportunity in what we call entrepreneurship," she says. "This is niche production, such as farmer markets or producers marketing meat and other products locally.

One of the shifts for the department in the environmental stewardship area will involve becoming more involved in provided technical assistance in the regulatory area. Hazlett acknowledges that significant regulatory challenges remain. The department will also be looking to promote 'green' technology, she concludes.

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