INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Gov. Eric Holcomb, Sens. Todd Young and Joe Donnelly and others opened the Indiana State Fair with the annual Indiana Pork Producers Assoc. breakfast last Friday.
The pork checkoff has again partnered with Feeding Indiana’s Hungry to contribute a check of $10,000 to food-insecure Hoosiers. In addition, Indiana Pork will be sponsoring a whole day at the fair this year, and the ever-anticipated pork item of the year – “potachos,” seasoned pit potatoes covered in barbecue pulled pork and nachos – was announced.
Holcomb greeted diners, sharing his appreciation and enthusiasm for the ag community and the fair. “It’s just your commitment to the communities that you represent and how you’ve made them so strong that’s so symbolic of what we are as Hoosiers, all coming together,” he said.
“So, whether you fry it or roast it or grill it, smoke it or braise it – you raise it, we’ll eat it and we’ll continue to have the best fair in America.”
Young spoke next, expressing his thanks for the ag community and their contribution to the state having a reputation of “leading the world.
“I am so privileged to work with many of you in all your best interests,” the Republican said. “I’m working to make sure that we open up foreign markets and that we work our way through this troubling trade situation. I ask that you continue to speak up and notify me and our office whenever you have any concerns, so we can advance your interests and the state of Indiana’s interests in Washington, D.C.”
Donnelly also expressed thanks to the community and gave an update on major ag issues. “As you know, this is a big time right now,” the Democrat said. “We’re working on a farm bill; we were able to pass it through the Senate 86 to 11, and it has really strong risk mitigation, strong crop insurance in place, a big conservation piece and a very expansive and strong vaccine bank.
“All of us – Governor Holcomb, the mayor, Senator Young – we’ve all been working on this opioids challenge (too).” He said the Senate incorporated telemedicine into the farm bill so even people from the smallest towns in the state can go to a local USDA facility and be able to talk to an addiction and treatment specialist.
He also said, with respect to more tariffs President Trump has threatened to implement on China, that Congress is working on solutions.
“We had a vote about a week ago that Congress should have a role in (Section) 232 (Trade Expansion Act) decisions, to try to make sure they’re done the right way, for the right decisions. My goal is to protect your markets. I don’t want to see markets that you’ve worked on for decades and decades to go away.”
Senatorial candidate Mike Braun did not speak at the breakfast but did attend and was open to commenting on some concerning ag conditions and his campaign. Braun, a Republican from Dubois County, said he has been involved with ag for 45 years, starting with a turkey farm he established in 1979, and today owns acres devoted to timber farming.
“The difference between myself and my opponent, Joe Donnelly, is that I’ve lived farming, and he’s only been involved with it by being a politician,” he said. “A lot of people don’t know that because the main business I’ve had has been a logistics and distribution business I’ve run for 37 years. I really loved the farming part more than that, though.”
Braun believes Trump is aware of how important the farm community was to him being elected, and that his actions with China revolve around competition in the world arena. He said Trump’s tactics are necessitating change in policy that addresses the changes the world economy has gone through since such previous policy was made.
“They (China) were smart in that they hit back at President Trump’s most loyal constituency,” he said. “I think there needs to be some time for it to work itself through. It is hard when we as farmers get caught in the crossfire,” he said.
“I don’t want this to persist into where it’s going to be more than, I think, part of the process of trying to fix some of the trade issues, and I think President Trump and his folks are smart enough to know that crop prices are chronically low, and the farm community, as myself, are worried about it.”
Braun believes he understands the farm dynamic better than Donnelly, having been involved with farming for 35 years and currently having acres of his own to worry about. He also talked about the importance of the Renewable Fuel Standard, and how it enhances and strengthens crop markets.
“I think the administration is going to try to do anything to enhance that, and I’m all for it,” he said. “I think that’s another sign that his eye is on the full picture and knowing that it’s a tough time for farmers in general.
“We are so good at what we do, it always generally puts pressure on markets, but we are survivors – we put up with weather variables and markets that are out of our control. We’ll make it through thick or thin.”
The morning wrapped up with a short address from 2018 State Fair Queen Audrey Campbell, and dismissal to the Big Top Circus-themed State Fair opening ceremony.