Either Vi Simpson, Democrat, or Sue Ellspermann, Republican, will be Indiana's next Secretary of Agriculture. They're vying for lieutenant. governor, which automatically places them in charge of oversight of the Indiana State Department of Agriculture. The successful candidate will be only the second person to be officially named secretary of agriculture, since the legislature changed the title when it created ISDA in 2005.
We sat down with both candidates at different times in exclusive interviews, asking similar questions. Look for the rest of the series today and tomorrow on the Indiana Prairie Farmer website.
Vi Simpson is the Democrat candidate for Indiana Lt. Governor, running with John Gregg, candidate for governor. She's been in the Indiana Senate for 28 years, is currently minority leader, and serves District 40, including the northern two-thirds or more of Monroe County, including Bloomington. She resides in Ellettsville.
Here's part one of the interview with Simpson. (See Ellspermann's interview here.)
IPF: How important do you view being secretary of agriculture as well as lt. governor on your list of duties?
SIMPSON: It's very important, and can be even important so in the long run. I believe the Indiana State Department of Agriculture should be more involved in economic and rural development as the legislature intended it to be. There is great potential for job creation. It's very important to develop jobs to keep people in counties where they grew up.
IPF: How important is agriculture to the overall state economy? Is there room for economic growth due to agriculture?
SIMPSON: Absolutely, there is room for growth. We need to look at the alternatives. Agriculture is very important to the state economy. We need to take advantage of value-added opportunities, including farmer's markets. Bloomington (which I represent) has one of the biggest farmer's markets in the state. I see the state becoming more supportive of direct retail sales efforts for food.
IPF: How would you rate the value and performance of the new Indiana State Department of Agriculture so far?
SIMPSON: The intent when it was first created was to encourage more economic development, employment and rural development. I give Lt. Governor Skillman for trying to carry out these duties. We need to focus resources on small communities. John Gregg and I are very interested in focusing on other counties outside of Indianapolis and the doughnut counties.