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Commentary: Indiana Does Not Know It is a Farm State

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Ask anyone in the general media or the general public what states are “farm states” and Iowa will be their first choice, followed by California and, most likely, Kansas. Ask a farm reporter or any farmers and the three “I” states — Iowa, Illinois, and Indiana — will top the list.  By any statistical measure, agriculture is a significant force in the Hoosier State. It contributes over $31 billion to the state’s economy and supports over 107,000 jobs across the state. In most counties, except Marion County, agriculture is the largest or second largest industry. So, you would think that during a political debate between the candidates for the Senate seat in Indiana, agriculture would figure prominently. You would be wrong.

In the recent debate between the Republican, Democrat, and Libertarian candidates, only 1 minute, 15 seconds were spent talking about agriculture. HAT reporter Eric Pfeiffer timed it. With all the policy issues in the news today including trade, the Farm Bill, ethanol, and immigration, you might think there would be plenty to argue about.  The only issue discussed was ethanol; and the only reason that came up was because Libertarian candidate Lucy Brenton, in all seriousness, advocated we stop growing corn and replace it with hemp. She went on to call ethanol “unnecessary.” Mike Braun remained mum; while Senator Joe Donnelly, a long time, strong supporter of renewable fuels, spoke up in defense. Then it was over, and agriculture was never heard of again.

The real tragedy here is that this is the norm and has been the norm for most of the campaign. With only a few weeks left before election day, there have been only a few times when any of the candidates have talked about farm issues or met with a gathering of farmers. Why isn’t agriculture more of a campaign issue?

Some will argue that most people don’t care about agriculture, and there is some truth to that. Yet, should a campaign for statewide office simply be talking about what people are interested in?  If that is the case, the debate should have centered on why the Colts can’t win, which is a better university Purdue or IU,  or whether Indiana should be on Central or Eastern time.

If these people want our votes to be our voice in Washington, why don’t they show us how they are going to represent us if elected? Indiana farmers, while small in number, vote in a greater percentage than other groups. They do so because they want leaders that support agriculture.  However, our candidates don’t seem to understand that. The Indiana Debate Commission and the campaigns seem to think that agriculture is only worth 75 seconds out of a 60 minute debate. The fact that this was not mentioned by anyone outside of the ag media shows that most Hoosiers do not see Indiana as a state where agriculture is important.

The next debate is October 30. At the Indiana Debate Commission website, you can submit a question. Perhaps, if enough people submit questions about agriculture, we might be able to get more than 1 minute, 15 seconds in time spent talking about agriculture.

If you want to submit a question for the debate, go to https://indianadebatecommission.com/.

   By Gary Truitt