Six term, Indiana Senator Richard Lugar who died on Sunday at the age of 87 is remembered by most for his accomplishments in foreign policy. Yet, his visionary leadership in agriculture is just as notable. He almost single handedly created and got Congressional approval for the Conservation Reserve Program, used his position as Chairman of the Senate Ag Committee to write and pass several market-oriented Farm Bills, and was a strong support in Congress for ethanol and the Renewable Fuels Standard.
Purdue President Mitch Daniels, who worked with Lugar for 14 years, released a statement praising Lugar. “Words are hard to come by right now,” Daniels said. “Dick Lugar was not just the finest public servant I will ever know, he was the finest person. He embodied all we can hope for in our leaders: brilliance of mind, purity of motive, stainless in character, tireless in the pursuit of duty. Incomparably knowledgeable about the world, he was first and always a patriot, utterly dedicated to the security and wellbeing of his fellow Americans.”
Indiana Senator Todd Young said in a statement showcasing Lugar’s ability to achieve bipartisan consensus on in Washington, “Always staying true to his temperament, he was a quiet, dignified statesman. He thought before he spoke. He emphasized substance over personality. In short, he set the bar for public leaders — and for leaders more generally. I’m not sure we will ever see another Richard Lugar.” Randy Kron, Indiana Farm Bureau president said, “Senator Lugar’s intelligence and knowledge of the most important issues that impacted our nation, along with his thoughtfulness and diplomatic approach, came through in everything he did. His love for his family farm and understanding of agriculture issues made him a true friend and advocate for Hoosier farmers.”
Despite his presence on the international stage, Lugar was never afraid to talk about agriculture and felt as at home with farmers as he did with Presidents and Dictators. Lugar operated a tree farm in SW Marion County and would discuss forestry with as much passion and knowledge as he discussed nuclear disarmament. A strong believer in trade, in recent years he had become critical of the current ag trade policy of the Trump administration. After leaving Washington, he founded the Lugar Center for Renewable Energy at IUPUI which fosters research into a wide variety of alternative energy sources.
Many of today’s top ag leaders can trace their beginnings to their association with Lugar. “His political power influenced those around him, including myself,” said Indiana Lt. Governor Suzanne Crouch. “I first was inspired to enter politics in 1982, when I worked for him on his campaign trail. I know countless individuals who are in the leadership positions they are today, because of Senator Lugar.” Former Indiana Farm Bureau President Don Villwock and Chuck Conner, head of the National Council of Farmer Co-ops both trace their careers to the influence of Lugar.
Lugar was also a great friend to the ag media. A regular visitor to the State Fair, farms, and farm meetings, he would also make time for interviews with the agricultural media even when the international press was hounding him for an interview. “It was 6am on a bitterly cold morning at a gas station in Boone County that had just started selling ethanol fuel. There was Senator Lugar on hand to talk renewable fuels,” said Hoosier Ag Today founder Gary Truitt. “You could always count on getting a good story when you talked to the Senator.”