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What Farmers Think About Department of Ag

What Farmers Think About Department of Ag
Exclusive five-year review coming in next magazine.

Lt. Governor and Indiana's Secretary of Agriculture Becky Skillman will grace the cover of next months' Indiana Prairie Farmer. We look back over the first five-plus years of the Indiana State Department of Agriculture. The package includes an exclusive on-farm interview with both Skillman and Joe Kelsay, the current director of ISDA.

But to find out what farmers think about ISDA so far, we conducted our own, unscientific poll of 45 top farmers and leaders in Indiana. As you'll learn in the upcoming issue, overall, the marks are good for ISDA. To get two-thirds support on anything in any kind of survey is a great accomplishment.

However, the ISDA is not without its detractors, or at least those who aren't yet sure if Indiana is better off with an ISDA than it was before. Some are worried about a lack of financial commitment by the legislature, others are concerned the legislature doesn't give the new agency enough leeway to do its job.

Part of the concerns raised in the survey trace back to misunderstandings about what the department is about. And that's surprising. Kelsya has criss-crossed the state, making dozens of public appearances, speaking about ISDA and what it does. Yet a significant number of respondents had either only heard one person from ISD talk in its first five years, or else no one at all.

Some question why the FFA director's position is now housed physically under ISDA, while others, including Indiana Prairie Farmer in our editorial section in the upcoming issue, see it as a great move, almost a coup. One thing that is misunderstood is who funds that position. Steve Hickey's salary as director for the Indiana FFA Association and the Indiana Young Farmer's Association comes from a federal grant. It now passes through the office e of workforce development to ISDA. ISDA leaders report that they are very close to finally having the green light to hire an assistant to Hickey, who would also be paid with federal dollars.

At least one person questioned why support FFA and not 4-H. There are 4-H program specialists and then a bevy of professors who technically work on youth development, but who help out with 4-H programs, housed in the Youth Development and Education Department at Purdue University. There are ag education professors in the same department, but they provide no direct support to FFA. Over the years, 4-H ahs always had considerably more funded positions to provide help than FFA. The FFA position Hickey holds was previously in the Department of Education, with dozens of other duties heaped upon it. Both 4-H and FFA have their separate Foundations, which are fund-raisin arms for their respective organizations, and which do not receive state funds.

Look for more details in the December issue.

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