By EMMA HOPKINS
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Indiana Pork kicked off the Indiana State Fair at the crack of dawn last Friday, once again hosting Indiana politicians, pork producers and agricultural officials on the state fairgrounds.
The event opened with the announcement that Indiana Pork will be sponsoring an entire day of the fair on August 9, for the first time. The organization also unveiled the new food item of the year that will be on the menu at pork tents for the duration of the fair: The peanut butter pork burger, which consists of a pork patty, peanut butter sauce, and a ring of pineapple.
Indiana Pork Board President Joe Baldwin opened the event and explained the pork industry as a whole is currently expanding, especially in Indiana.
“We are extremely glad the industry is growing, but the growth also highlights the need to educate our neighbors, local decision-makers and state legislatures about pork farming in Indiana,” he said. “It is more important than ever for the folks in this room that are involved in the livestock industry to open your operations to government officials at the county and state level to ensure legislative and regulatory decisions that affect the future of our industry are not made in a vacuum, but by people that have had the opportunity to see our farms and operations firsthand.”
Gov. Eric Holcomb said expansion in the pork industry allows for great opportunities, and that it is important to continue on the current path. “We want to encourage more production and more processing in the state of Indiana and we’ve proven all over the state that we can do that,” he said. “We are different than some states, in that we are known to all come together and get around the table to sort out our issues, get all our ducks in a row, so to speak, and a lot of good things come of that. I would just encourage that all the parties get together and work out their differences.”
Because pork producers are fortunate to do business in a state that is supportive of livestock agriculture, Indiana Pork understands the need of its industry to give back to the community. One way farmers have accomplished that this year is by donating $10,000 to Feeding Indiana’s Hungry (FIsH), an organization that works to feed Indiana’s food-insecure residents by drawing on varied resources within public agencies and the private sector.
Nick Maple, vice president of the Indiana Pork Board, said it believes in helping to feed the community. “For a few years, we’ve been partnered with Feeding Indiana’s Hungry,” he explained. “Several producers throughout the state have done this through a voluntary checkoff program. We’d like to recognize a few longtime supporters of this program.”
One such supporter is First Farmers Bank and Trust, which have been a generous sponsor since the program started. Emily Weikert Bryant, executive director of FIsH, said the organization is thankful for the opportunity to work with many commodity groups in the state and federal government.
Holcomb also showed his appreciation for the state’s pork industry. “I can’t think of any other event where five different types of pork are being served at the same time,” he joked. “I would like to reference Homer Simpson, who said ‘The pig is a wonderful, magical animal.’ But we truly do have some wonderful people that make not only this day, but every day, happen at Indiana Pork, and I just want to thank you all for this fantastic, annual tradition.
“We are going to have a great weekend,” he added. “I just encourage you to – I know that we’ve all been to the state fair – but do us all a favor and try to bring some folks who haven’t been here before.
This is a special place, and this is where memories are made. Please take advantage of that, enjoy the fair for the next two weeks and we’ll be with you.”
U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) shared his appreciation for all involved in donations. “I just want to tell Feeding Indiana’s Hungry and First Farmers Bank and Trust, and all of the people who do the checkoff, we see the kids that you feed and the difference that you make in letting them go home with a full stomach, and it changes everything.”
To conclude, he encouraged producers to speak up in sharing their opinions and needs for the 2017 farm bill.
“I would like to honor your hard work, because that’s where it comes from; there’s no magic formula,” he said. “There’s hard work, and then there’s more hard work. What I want to do is be a conduit for you. That your ideas and thoughts, the things you need to see, is what we need for the farm bill.
“I’m going to keep travelling aroundthe state, and if any of you want to get a group together, we’d love to sit down with you, because we know how important things like crop insurance are.
Please know that this is an open process, and that you’re going to write the bill.” Donnelly will be hosting a farm bill listening session at the state fair, in fact, scheduled for 9-10:30 a.m. on August 15, on the second floor of the Normandy Barn on the fairgrounds. It is sponsored by Indiana Farm Bureau.