“I know of no pursuit in which more real and important services can be rendered to any country than by improving its agriculture…” – George Washington
Agriculture is big business in Indiana. It contributes over $31 billion dollars to our state’s economy and supports approximately 100,000 jobs. Indiana is the tenth largest farming state in the nation and 96 percent of farms are family owned and operated. The counties that make up House District 75 have about 350,000 acres of farmland with about 1,400 farms. Spencer County has the largest farming industry with 169,000 acres and 665 farms. Warrick County has 105,000 acres with 364 farms, and Pike county has 80,000 acres with 327 farming operations.
The agriculture industry in Indiana is far reaching. It involves more than production agriculture, which includes the raising of livestock or crops. It also includes manufacturing, wholesale, storage, support services, tourism, and retail operations. Agriculture is involved in every aspect of our lives through the essentials of food, clothing, and shelter. Therefore, it is important to ensure that state legislation does not impede but advances the agriculture industry.
The largest infrastructure issue in House District 75 is flooding. Some of this flooding relates to housing development, but the largest issue involves Pigeon Creek. In Warrick County, several acres of planted crops have been replaced only to be lost again to flooding. Pigeon creek is considered a regulated drain in Warrick County but not in Vanderburgh County. Because of this Vanderburgh county has no jurisdiction which allows them to maintain Pigeon Creek as it is owned by private citizens. The water flow is impeded by natural habitat such as trees or beaver dams and even trash all which causes back up and flooding in Warrick County. House Bill 1245 was recently introduced, authored by Holli Sullivan, which would establish a Pigeon creek commission to manage these concerns. This bill was referred to the committee on natural resources.
A second issue that farmers need to remain proactive on is property rights and annexation of land. Landowners must have a voice. Considerations regarding the productivity of farmland, and the impact on existing uses of land in the area should be included in decisions about standards set at the local level. Whether it is renewable energy, livestock expansion or customary farming practices, property owners should have the authority to decide what activities take place on the land they own. It is also necessary to make sure that annexations are handled in a manner that is fair to the landowners and not just the municipality. It is important that landowners have a say in determining the long-term impact on their property, in who can tax and zone that property.
The next issue is protecting small farms. The small, independent farmer is increasingly losing out to big-brand agribusiness. The larger farming operations set the prices and small farmers are unable to compete with these operations for contracts. Regenerative agriculture, local co-ops and community support may not be enough to sustain local farmers. Without the traditional cycles of employment and production that small farms foster, rural communities are falling apart. It is imperative that we protect our small farmers. We must work to enact policies that restore a fair market and investment to revitalize rural communities.
Lastly, the the agriculture industry must focus on innovation in response to rising costs. Commitment to fostering entrepreneurial ecosystems is needed to propel new advancements, help to start and scale businesses and to bring on future innovators. Innovation and diversification in agronomic practices can help producers to reduce their operating costs to ensure a higher return on their agricultural enterprise.
When elected Cindy will work to ensure that legislation is of benefit to the advancement of our farming industry as well as our rural communities. She will work to ensure drainage legislation is addressed and property rights are protected.