On Monday, Sue Ellspermann will become Lt. Governor of Indiana and the state’s 2nd Secretary of Agriculture. At Indiana Farm Bureau’s legislative kickoff on Tuesday, Ellspermann presented her vision for Indiana agriculture. She said she wants to return Indiana rural communities to the kind of place she grew up in, “I remember vibrant rural communities, with lots of people, large farm families, thriving family farms, lots of businesses on main street.” She said the rural communities of today are much different places with declining populations, boarded up main streets, and dwindling school enrollments. She said the way to revitalize rural Indiana is with a strong and vibrant agriculture.
She pledged to use the resources of state government to provide the opportunities, innovation, and tax structure needed to keep Indiana agriculture growing. She drew applause from the more than 300 farmers in the room when she called for a moratorium on new regulations and the implementation of the soil fertility factor in property tax assessments. She also expressed strong support for expanding broadband and cellular phone service to rural areas, but feels this is a job that can and should be accomplished by the private sector.
The native of Ferdinand, IN also called for a strong promotion of the benefits of a strong ag sector, “We must promote agriculture and the foundation of our rural communities.” She added this is especially true as more and more urban and suburban residents move into rural areas with little understanding of agriculture and its importance to the rural economy.
She said this approach will lead to a vibrant and growing rural Indiana, “A vision for rural Indiana is to see those bustling and growing communities; high achieving schools; new businesses of all kinds; high wage, plentiful jobs within 30 minutes of town; large, medium, and small farms all having a place in our communities.” She challenged the Farm Bureau members in attendance to work with state government and work within their own communities to achieve some of these goals. The presentation linked rural development and agriculture much closer than had been done by the previous administration which is an indication of the new direction the Pence administration will take when it comes to agriculture.
While she did not address the issue of soil conservation in her presentation, Elsperman talked with HAT after her remarks and voiced strong support for soil and water conservation. She indicated the Pence administration was in support of increased state funding for Clean Water Indiana, “We are looking at some adjustments in funding and we understand that it is an important and crucial issue.” She added that any final plan would not be approved until after the appointment of a new ISDA director, so he or she could be part of the decision process.