|By NANCY VORIS
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Gov. Mitch Daniels said there is an interesting irony when people say farmers are too traditional and resistant to change.
“I think it is just exactly backwards,” he said. “I don’t know anyone more appreciative of change.”
Agriculture technology is constantly transforming, Hoosiers are embracing new ideas in specialty crops and producers are learning to compete in a global marketplace.
“Indiana agriculture is a great model of change and reform,” the governor told attendees at the 2005 Indiana Farm Bureau Conference at the Indiana Convention Center on Saturday.
The Daniels Administration has brought substantial gains to the farming community this year, beginning with not one, but two seats in his cabinet representing agriculture. Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman, as secretary of agriculture, and Director of Agriculture Andy Miller.
The Indiana State Department of Agriculture, in its freshman year, has tackled a number of issues with the production of biofuels as a key element. Six biodiesel plants and 23 ethanol plants are either in production or are in the planning stages this year.
“It’s time we put dollars in the pockets of Hoosiers instead of dollars in the pockets of foreign dictators,” Daniels said.
The recent summit meeting held for east central Indiana farmers, agribusiness and economic development directors looked at the potential for new opportunities in that region.
The governor also addressed the longstanding issue of property taxes, and said it was time Indiana moved away from the assessment system “inherited from the days of yore.”
His motto is “if you don’t spend it, you don’t have to tax anyone.” He plans to put a lid on the current trend of schools erecting elaborate campuses.
“If you’re going to build something more expensive than the national average, you better show good reason,” he said.
Daniels drew applause when he announced that Indiana had its first balanced budget in 10 years, one of the goals of his first year in office.
IFB President Don Villwock, who was re-elected to the position at Friday’s delegate session, praised the Daniels Administraion for “removing barriers for Indiana agriculture.”
He also said demand for biodiesel is growing every day, and called it a “win-win-win” situation for Indiana.
It burns cleaner in the environment, it brings jobs and economic development to communities and it increases net farm income for farmers.
Villwock challenged farmers who have not switched to biodiesel in their own vehicles and equipment, saying that is one step in building public awareness.
Tax incentives for using biofuels and the rising costs of petroleum fuels make it a “no brainer,” he said.
Published in the December 14, 2005 issue of Farm World.