MIDDLEBURY — While Indiana Gov. Mike Pence was in town Thursday afternoon, April 18, for a major jobs announcement, he took the time to sit down with local agricultural leaders to talk about issues facing the ag industry.
“I see Elkhart County as just a tremendous community,” he told the roughly two dozen people gathered at Culver Duck, the innovative duck producer located north of town. The group included poultry, dairy, beef, pork and sheep producers, grain farmers, members of the Middlebury Chamber of Commerce, and even outside consultants who work with agricultural producers.
Pence went through his six-point “roadmap for Indiana,” saying he wants to focus on “creating jobs and opportunities on the farm and in the city.”
The road map is there because “if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you.”
His map looks for improvements in private sector employment, investment, education, graduation rates, the state’s workforce and the health, safety and well-being of families and especially children.
He pushed his goal to cut personal income taxes by 10 percent, saying it would have a big impact on individuals and on small businesses like farms and other agricultural endeavors. “I think the best way to cut taxes in the city or on the farm is to cut personal income taxes.”
The local ag leaders were most appreciative when Pence voiced his desire to speed up repealing the state’s inheritance tax, and he got more nods when he talked about halting most new regulations. “Regulation is just about as onerous to growth as taxation,” Pence told the group.
He wants to involve businesses in developing curriculum for, and funding, more technical and vocational education in schools across the street. There’s been a huge drop in vocational education since he graduated, Pence said, and “we’ve got to do better than that, because it’s right for kids.”
He took questions and comments from the group, and those varied a lot.
He heard about how some dairy farmers have had problems with the intensity of state inspections, while he heard that poultry producers are happy with the state. Pence promised to look at the situation and said he wants common-sense regulations and regulatory practices.
Dwight Moudy of Elkhart County Farm Bureau pointed out, “A vast proportion of the farmers in Indiana are small or part-time,” and regulations are more of a burden for them.
Pence said while the state has to keep tragedies from happening, “I don’t know people that care more about the land and animals than farmers.”
He was also asked about his proposal for an “Ag Innovation Corridor,” saying he wants to attract research-and-development investment to the state to benefit the agricultural and life-science sectors. “We want to examine ways that we can encourage investment and innovation,” Pence said.
He also talked with the group about increasing regulations on fertilizer, which hits extra hard here due to high phosphorus levels in the soil in this area.
Mike Yoder, an Elkhart County commissioner and dairy farmer, encouraged Pence to push for more road funding, while David Hess, a member of the county council, thanked Pence for reviewing the soil-productivity factors that threatened to greatly increase taxes on farmers.
Pence also got to hear about Seed to Feed, a program between area farmers and Church Community Services of Elkhart. Rod Roberson, head of CCS, said many of the people at the table helped make the program happen.
It involves 90 acres, livestock and education, and Roberson told Pence, “we think it’s a model that can be taken to other counties,” one that benefits counties.
Pence liked the idea, and told the gathering, “I applaud what you’re doing.”