When Lt. Governor Skillman took office nearly eight years ago, she wasn't concerned directly about the Indiana FFA or the Division of Soil Conservation. The Indiana Department of Agriculture hadn't been created yet.
Once it was, the legislature moved the Division of Soil Conservation from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources to ISDA. Then just two years ago, Skillman and Joe Kelsay, director of ISDA, led the effort to house Indiana FFA's executive director within the department. Previously, they were housed in the Department of Education.
While they may not be front-burner issues to everyone, FFA and the Division of Soil Conservation are still an important part of the rural fabric in Indiana. In part III of our series, we conclude our interview with Vi Smpson by inquiring about her feelings about these groups.
IPF: The Indiana FFA is now housed under ISDA. What is your opinion of that relationship?
SIMPSON: I'm not sure about the best place and fit for FFA. I'm not sure if the Department of Agriculture is the right place or not. Some of it may depend upon who is elected as Superintendent of Public Instruction. The next administration must address the issue of career and technical education. It's one thing to say you're committed to it and another thing to get money to the effort. Maybe we need the Department of Education and ISDA to cooperate and focus more effort on helping kids who have an early interest in agriculture. I don't know yet what that effort should be.
I do know that FFA, 4-H and Purdue University Extension all have contributions to make.
IPF: What can Indiana do to better support the Division of Soil Conservation within ISDA and address water quality and conservation issues in the state?
SIMPSON: Soil and Water Conservation Districts educate people. What they do is absolutely imperative. We have never been able to get Clean Water Indiana fully funded. The next big conflict in this state, somewhere down the road, will be over water. We need education in groundwater issues. We also need help in educating the public about septic systems.
I'm not sure if the Division of Soil Conservation belongs in ISDA or the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. It's best to wait and assess this in the best way we can.
As for funding, I was very outspoken about reducing the dependence on property taxes, but the cap system was a mistake. So now we need to look at how caps affect agricultural and conservation policy.