|By MEGAN KUHN
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — One year after its creation, officials say the Indiana State Department of Agriculture (ISDA) is on the right track with many positive results, including millions of dollars of new investments in agricultural development.
Gov. Mitch Daniels joined Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman and Indiana Agriculture Director Andy Miller April 25 at the Indiana Statehouse for the release of the ISDA’s first Annual Report.
“Our commitment to Indiana agriculture is the same today as it was more than a year ago,” said Skillman, who also serves as the state’s Secretary of Agriculture and Rural Development. “This annual report outlines a continued plan for further economic development, benefiting not only Indiana’s rural economy but all Hoosiers.”
Indiana agricultural leaders are impressed with the department’s success over the last year. Randy Woodson, dean of Purdue University College of Agriculture, said he feels very good about the ISDA.
“They brought visibility to Indiana agriculture and made it a clear part of the state’s economic strategy,” Woodson said. “I hope they continue to keep economic development as a top priority.”
Skillman said the state saw $735 million in new agricultural development investment in the last year, creating 775 new jobs.
Skillman added that Indiana has become a national leader in biofuels with six ethanol and three biodiesel production facilities coming on-line in the near future.
“These (production facilities) will help us reach our goal of one billion gallons of biodiesel and ethanol production by 2008,” said Skillman.
ISDA’s 2005 Annual Report also outlines the department’s other accomplishments, which officials said include taking a leadership role in global trade and creation of the first comprehensive conservation plan for the state since the 1980s.
“An annual report is not just about looking back, but looking forward,” said Andy Miller. “We took this opportunity to reflect on what was working with the strategic plan and what needed to be improved. We made minor adjustments in most of the strategies, and realized there was a need in one new area where we should focus.”
Released last May, the ISDA’s strategic plan included seven strategies to position Indiana as a global center for food and agriculture innovation and commercialization.
All seven of the original strategies remain, though many received updates, and one new strategy was added - the Livestock Integration strategy.
The goal of the Livestock Integration strategy is to make Indiana a national leader in integrating livestock agriculture into local economic development planning by improving production practices, public understanding of modern livestock agriculture and land use tools.
The original strategic plan focused on doubling pork production in the state, which is still one of the main strategies of the ISDA, but Miller said that the new livestock strategy is bigger than just hog production and encompasses the state’s dairy, poultry, beef and other livestock industries.
The ISDA is working to implement the Livestock Integration strategy in the coming months starting with a voluntary program for livestock producers to receive incentives and recognition for using forward-thinking environmental, animal welfare and general management practices.
“ISDA believes livestock farmers are already good managers, environmentally responsible and care for their animals,” Miller said.
“We want to showcase the efforts of our conscientious farmers so the general public also understands their hard work.”
A complete copy of ISDA’s Annual Report can be found on their website at www.ingov/isda
Governor applauds biofuels bill
During the April 25 event, Gov. Daniels took the opportunity to tout the economic benefits of a recently passed biofuels bill that gives companies more incentive to produce renewable fuels in Indiana.
Daniels participated in a ceremonial signing of the Biofuels Use and Production Credits Bill (SEA 353).
The bill, which was signed into law on March 21, was authored by Sen. Tom Weatherwax (R-Logansport) and sponsored by Rep. Eric Gutwein (R-Rensselaer).
The bill increases the maximum amount of tax credits that may be granted for biodiesel production, biodiesel blending and ethanol production from $20 million to $50 million.
It also allows for a 10 cent per gallon sales tax deduction for the retail sale of E85, until July 1, 2008 or up to $2 million. The bill also extends the tax credit for the retail sale of blended biodiesel to 2010.
“If we are going to raise the income of Hoosiers and become an economic leader once again in this country, then agriculture will have to be at the core of it,” Daniels said.
This farm news was published in the May 3, 2006 issue of Farm World.