Maybe it wasn't the Academy Awards, but the presenters made much more sense than the presenters at those over-the-top Hollywood events. And the recipients of the awards certainly seemed more humble and gracious. It was the 'Beyond-the-Fence' awards presented at the first Livestock Forum, held last week in Indianapolis.
The Livestock Forum was sponsored by GINA, which stands for Growing Indiana Agriculture. Its main purpose is to promote livestock agriculture in Indiana. Surprisingly, at least at first glance, it's supported and funded primarily by the Indiana Soybean Alliance through soybean check-off funds. Most other Indiana commodity and farm groups are also involved in supporting the project.
"Soybean farmers recognize that livestock producers are their number one customer, and they see the need to help promote livestock in this state," says Jane Ade Stevens, executive director for GINA. One of GINA's most visible activities, other than the Forum, is a newsletter published on email by Stevens on a regular basis. It rounds up news about livestock agriculture form around the state and country. Most of it pertains to either successful or unsuccessful efforts to establish or expand new livestock production units.
"Part of the reason for sponsoring the day-long Forum was to say thank you to our producers in Indiana," Ade-Stevens says. "We have a lot of people who work hard behind the scenes to help the livestock industry."
The first category was 'Outstanding farm-city relations.' The award went to Rush County for their Rush County Ag Roundtable, represented by Greg Hall of Farm Credit Services of Mid-America, current president of the Roundtable. Discussions monthly include producers, business leaders and even the mayor, and have been useful in helping the county work on planning.
In the "Outstanding public official' category, the winner was Ralph Booker, long-time Marshall County Extension ag educator, and now Marshall County Planning Director. He and others, who received other awards, shepherded county officials through a year-long debate over a hog confinement unit controversy. He also has helped develop model ordinances for zoning. He serves on the Indiana Land Resources Council.
For 'Outstanding industry support,' one winner was Mike Veenhuizen of Livestock Engineering Solutions, Greenwood. He and his staff help livestock producers prepare permits and help them move through the maze of planning and zoning all over the state, and even across the country.
Receiving the same award was Miriam Robeson, an attorney from Carroll County. She became very involved, attended meetings and helped organize supporters when a controversy about a proposed livestock operation occurred in her county.
Randy Curless, a Wabash, Ind., swine producer, was one of two recipients of the "Outstanding community involvement by a livestock producer award. He ahs emerged as a strong voice for agriculture in Wabash County, and was featured on the cover of Indiana Prairie Farmer earlier this year, in an article discussing fall-out from failure of the legislature to adopt a livestock bill last spring.
Nancy Cline, Tipton, was recognized as a Tipton County pork producer who paid attention and organized producers when the local area plan commission contemplated writing rules that would have eliminated hog production in Tipton County. The irony is that Tipton County, home of the annual Tipton Pork Festival, has long been known for hog production.
"Outstanding neighbor relations by a producer" went to Tejo Willemson, who moved to Madison County from Europe six years ago to milk cows. When he filed a permit to expand his herd to 6,000 cows this past summer, 150 of his neighbors showed up at the local zoning meeting to support him, with no one there in opposition. Madison County once considered a moratorium on livestock.
The final award, "Outstanding organizational support, went to two people: Bob Yoder, Marshall County Extension ag educator, for his role in resolving the hog confinement dispute there, and Drew Cleveland, regional manager for Indiana Farm Bureau in eastern Indiana. Several of his counties have seen wrenching debates over livestock production. Cleveland was recognized for helping keep farmers informed and organized.