Give her credit for trying. Lt. Governor Becky Skillman brought about 20 key representatives of ag groups, from commodity leaders to Purdue Extension, together last week for a frank roundtable discussion of just what could be done to help people affected by the drought, and who could do it. After the discussion, the entire group fielded questions from local media.
The primary question is this: "What can state government do to help?"As far as helping farmers, there is not a lot we can do," Skillman says. "We want to make sure farmers are getting the information they need, and know about federal programs that might help them."
The drought also affects other citizens besides farmers. There is a possible effect on water usage and on food prices. Skillman did take one quick action. She established a website (www.drought.in.gov) for information about the drought and drought relief in one location. It is set up similar to the website that was used after the flood in 2008.
"Our role in the state department of agriculture is to answer questions, and to direct people to someone who might be able to help them with their particular need," says Joe Kelsay, director of ISDA. He is also a sixth-generation farmer who owns a farm with his family in Johnson County. His own farm is severely affected by the drought.
"Our role is sort of a clearinghouse for information," he continues. "We don't have specific programs to offer to help, but we can listen and connect people with someone who might be able to meet their need. Our job is to listen and to help people make the right connections."