By DAVE BLOWER JR.
Senior Editor, Farm World
KNIGHTSTOWN, Ind. — U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly toured the hog farm of Dallas and Meggie Foster in rural Rush County on July 7 as part of an effort to connect with Hoosier farmers prior to 2018 farm bill negotiations later this year.
Friday’s visit was part of what Donnelly’s staff is calling his Farm Bill Listening Tour. These sessions began in January in Indianapolis. The focus of this meeting was to hear the concerns of the state’s pork producers.
“I’ve had several of these so far this year. I’ve been to talk to corn growers, soybean growers, the dairy group and (Indiana) Farm Bureau,” said Donnelly, who is a member of the Senate Ag Committee. “It’s my job to be the voice of Hoosier farmers on that committee.”
Donnelly, 61, was elected in 2012. He helped negotiate the 2014 farm bill and he said he’s prepared to push for priorities that will help Indiana farmers.
He said no exact date has been set for the committee to discuss the 2018 bill, but he’s in frequent contact with Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), the Committee’s chair, and Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), who is its ranking member.
Donnelly said Hoosier farmers have many concerns. “Crop insurance has been the most talked about topic, though,” he admitted. “We need to discuss how to do this in a common sense way. Family farmers need some security so they can prepare for the next year.” At the Foster farm tour, which included members of the Indiana Pork board of directors, keeping export markets was a primary concern.
“We want to export as many Indiana farm products as we can,” Donnelly said. “We send a lot of pork to Asia, so that is an important area for us. My focus is to make sure we are strong on exports across the board.” The U.S. EPA last week proposed its renewable volume obligations of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), keeping most production goals of ethanol, biodiesel and other fuels near 2017 levels. Donnelly is mostly pleased with the EPA’s proposal.
“I’ve been talking about RFS issues for a long time, and let me say that I am a strong supporter of biofuels,” he explained. “I’m glad that the ethanol level is where it is. I’m concerned a little where they came in on advanced biofuels (such as cellulosic).”
Donnelly isn’t sure how the political lines will be drawn on the debate for ethanol subsidies in the farm bill. “I am pro-ethanol. That’s what Indiana farmers need to know.”