By MEGGIE I. FOSTER
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Marking the conclusion of the 94th annual Indiana Farm Bureau State Convention, the state delegate body unanimously re-elected Knox County grain farmer Don Villwock to his sixth term as president of Indiana Farm Bureau (IFB) and Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance on Dec. 8.
“I am both humbled and honored,” Villwock said. “I appreciate the trust that the delegate body placed in me, and I look forward to the next three years, working on behalf of our members and Indiana agriculture.”
Villwock, who raises white corn, soybeans, seed soybeans and seed wheat on his farm near Edwardsport, Ind., took office as IFB president in January 2002.
Villwock served in many capacities with Farm Bureau prior to his election as president, including vice president, District 7 director, Knox County Farm Bureau president and State Young Farmer Committee chairman. Additionally, he has served on the Farm Bill Task Force and the Farm Credit Task Force.
At the national level, Villwock is a member of the American Farm Bureau board of directors and is the national vice president of the Farm Bureau Bank and American Agricultural Insurance Company. In January 2004, he was appointed to the American Farm Bureau Federation Trade Advisory Committee.
In June 2003, he was elected chairman of the board of trustees of the Farm Foundation. Additionally, Villwock is a member of the 25 x ’25 Ag Energy Working Group, a national task force promoting the use of renewable fuels.
A 1972 graduate of Purdue University with a degree in agricultural economics, Villwock previously served as state executive director of the USDA’s Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service (now the Farm Services Agency) from 1989 to 1993. He also served as state agricultural liaison for U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind).
Other leadership positions and awards include Purdue Distinguished Agricultural Alumnus, past president of the Purdue Ag Alumni Association, Prairie Farmer Master Farmer, Friend of Extension, 33rd degree Scottish Rite Mason and Sagamore of the Wabash (the highest honor that can be bestowed by Indiana’s governor).
‘Engage’ theme of convention
During the convention, that took place at the JW Marriott in Indianapolis, Dec. 7-8, Villwock provided his annual address to remind members how much can be accomplished when they are engaged with their elected officials.
Speaking before several hundred farmers at the convention’s general session, on Dec. 7, Villwock mentioned three specific examples of engagement with elected officials, all from the 2012 General Assembly: repealing Indiana’s inheritance tax, overturning an Indiana Supreme Court decision that would have allowed cities and towns broad jurisdiction over water rights, and delaying implementation of a new soil productivity factor that was to be used in calculating property taxes.
The proposed soil productivity factor was announced by the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance in February with the expectation that assessors would use for the March 1, 2012, reassessment of farmland.
The previous soil productivity adjustments had been in place since 1979, and the introduction of the new factors, which would have significantly increased the assessed value of farmland and the taxes farmers would pay, came as a complete surprise to assessors, to legislators and to Farm Bureau.
“Your engagement with and outreach to legislators delayed the unjust implementation of a new farmland productivity factor,” added Villwock. “This effort saved Indiana landowners about $57.4 million in taxes over the next year alone.”
Villwock also highlighted significant achievements of some of Indiana’s county Farm Bureaus, including the campaign spearheaded by Vanderburgh County Farm Bureau to defeat a city-consolidation effort in Evansville.
“But we have much more to do, and we must stay engaged every day,” he said. “We are less than 2 percent of the population, and many of the remaining 98 percent do not understand agriculture. And some would even like us to go away. We have an ever-growing population that will soon reach 9 billion mouths to feed. It will take all of us being engaged to make that happen.”