Indiana politicians, agricultural groups, FFA members and others with an appreciation for agriculture gathered in Indianapolis at the State House last Tuesday to celebrate an industry close to their hearts and interests at the 2017 Indiana Ag Day.
Sponsored by Indiana's Coalition of Farmers and several agriculture-related businesses and organizations, Indiana Ag Day provided a chance for attendees to celebrate the economical and other contributions the Industry makes to the state. As part of the event, FFA Sentinel Logan Glassburn read Gov. Holcomb's official proclamation designating March 21 "Ag Day" in Indiana.
Indiana State Department of Agriculture Director Ted McKinney noted during his speech that, though people all over the nation were celebrating agriculture–March 21 also being National Ag Day—he felt Indiana deserved special appreciation.
"I've had a chance to work with many states in my career, and you need to know that our family of farmers, and the way that everybody works together here is unlike any other state, and I think it's benefitting to all of Indiana agriculture," McKinney said. "To all our organizations that make up our family of farmers, thank you."
McKinney said in just the past year, Indiana has expanded in dairy processing by three new plants, in soybean processing by two new plants and has added both a Boar's Head processing plant and a large turkey hatchery. Also in the works, he said, are two pet food manufacturing plants on the east side of the state and two new ethanol plants to add to the 15 already stationed in Indiana.
Following McKinney's comments, Lt. Gov. and Indiana Secretary of Agriculture Suzanne Crouch gave a speech detailing agriculture's economic contributions to the state, including $31 billion in GDP and $4.6 billion in exports every year. Crouch said she and the governor are planning to take Indiana agriculture to "the next level."
"The governor and I stand with you as you continue to grow our agricultural economy," she said. "We are going to cultivate a diverse economy and make Indiana a magnet for jobs. And I assure you that I will stand with you and fight or change regulations that hinder your growth, so we can continue that growth, for you and for all Hoosiers."
Crouch also commented that she will make it a priority to lift organizations such as FFA and 4-H to make them a leadership cornerstone in Indiana, and that she and the governor will be fighting hard to attack the drug epidemic affecting rural communities.
Next up to speak was State Sen. Jean Leising (R-Oldenburg) who commended agricultural organizations and farmers in the room on working together towards the positive movement of agriculture.
"I can tell you last year, we were able, working together, working with the House and government, to bring property tax relief for farmland, and that was certainly something that was much needed," she said. "I think so many times people don't understand how we are leaders in the nation and in various commodities."
Following Leising's comments, Indiana State Rep. Don Lehe (R-Brookston)assured attendees that state legislature will continue to fight for the Industry.
"Although we don't have a lot of farmers in the legislature, we do have a lot of farmer support, and we will continue to work with those folks," Lehe said. "I like to see all the young people here today, because I think a lot of what we do is try to enforce and support careers in agriculture, and it's great to have the FFA here with us."
Glassburn, along with announcing Gov. Holcomb's proclamation establishing Ag Day in Indiana, said the strength of Indiana FFA is behind the Industry.
"As FFA members, we take pride in our vision as growing leaders, building communities, and strengthening agriculture," Glassburn said. "And this isn't just a vision that our organization holds, but it's a vision that our entire industry can stand behind."
To top off the luncheon, which served attendees Indiana-grown and raised food such as pork and dairy products, Glassburn and Crouch honored six students who competed and placed first, second and third in the agricultural video contests prepared for Ag Day. To participate, Indiana middle and high school students were asked to submit videos which addressed the prompt "What does the future of agriculture mean to you?".
Placing first in the grades 6-8 category was Nathan Tuholski, a seventh-grader at Door Prairie Christian School in Mill Creek, and placing first in the high school division was Katelyn Smith, a tenth-grader at Pioneer Junior/Senior High School in Logansport.
Mirroring sentiments of perhaps all at the celebration, Smith, who is planning on majoring in agribusiness in her college career, explained her intention in making one of the winning videos.
"Agriculture to me is very important and it's my lifestyle," Smith said. "When I saw this opportunity, I just decided I wanted to show everyone how important agriculture is to me and why."