In part 2 of the Hoosier Ag Today exclusive conversation with ISDA Director Gina Sheets, we focus on how the Department of Agriculture is dealing with funding challenges for soil conservation and a new direction for international trade efforts.
Under the previous administration, the Clean Water Indiana program, which provides funding for soil and water conservation districts, has been funded by the state cigarette tax. But with fewer people smoking, funds are decreasing. IASWCD research predicts that within the next few years funding will not be sufficient for many activities and programs on the county level. ISDA director Gina Sheets says ISDA is working with other groups to try to find a solution for strong funding for the future, “We are looking at what other states are doing to see if there is something that Indiana could or should be doing.” She said the ISDA is working closely with other members of the Indiana Conservation Partnership to make sure programs to not overlap and that there is no duplication of efforts by state, federal, and private agencies. She said soil conservation remains a high priority for ISDA, “We need to provide farmers the tools and resources needed to make sure they can be successful today and pass on their farms to generations to come.”
Former Lt. Governor and Secretary of Agriculture Becky Skillman had international trade as one of her top priorities. Sheets says Lt. Governor Ellspermann also wants to help Indiana agriculture be competitive on the world market, but may be changing the focus on those efforts. “Before we take a group of Indiana farmers or agribusinesses to a country, we need to make sure that country has standards and policies in place that will benefit Indiana.” She said several nations in Asia remain strong markets for Indiana, including China and Taiwan. Sheets said a member of the ISDA staff will be attending a major agricultural trade show in SE Asia this year. Sheets said Lt. Governor Ellspermann will lead an ag trade mission next year but exactly to where is still being evaluated, “We are, however, looking at perhaps taking our first trade mission to South Korea.”
In our final segment, we will take a look at the vision ISDA has for farmers markets and direct sales of farm goods to consumers.
You can watch the interview with Gina Sheets on the video section of our app for Smartphones and tablets.