Gov. Mike Pence picks up a piglet for a closer look during a tour of Grandpa Jay’s Pork in Kirklin, Ind. The farm was featured in an all-day visit of various enterprises in central Indiana to celebrate Agriculture Appreciation Month. Pence said farming is important to Indiana’s general economy, as well as both rural and urban Hoosiers.
Gov. Mike Pence picks up a piglet for a closer look during a tour of Grandpa Jay’s Pork in Kirklin, Ind. The farm was featured in an all-day visit of various enterprises in central Indiana to celebrate Agriculture Appreciation Month. Pence said farming is important to Indiana’s general economy, as well as both rural and urban Hoosiers.
KIRKLIN, Ind. — There are three reasons that would make 65-year-old Jay Hawley — known as “Grandpa Jay” — quit raising hogs.

Age and economics, “but the big one is going to be regulations,” he said. “I’m a small producer. I don’t have somebody that can take care of all the paperwork, I mean the ridiculous part of me supposedly going through my barns once a week and writing down that I went through my barns and noticed nothing was wrong or I fixed it.”

“We do it twice a day, but we don’t write it down, and that’s the frustrating part for me,” he explained. “I think I do a good job. I think I maintain it. We have no problems environmentally, with doing things right. But I’m afraid sometime inspection-wise, that’ll be my biggest downfall, that we don’t have the paperwork right.”

Hawley gave a tour of his farm in Kirklin to state officials as they visited four diverse enterprises in central Indiana to celebrate Agriculture Appreciation Month. They also toured hardwood manufacturer Miller Veneers in Indianapolis, the Heartland Growers greenhouse facilities in Westfield and the Beck’s Hybrids seed company in Atlanta earlier that day.

As they chatted with agriculture representatives in Hawley’s living room, Gov. Mike Pence amplified the farmer’s point.

“I don’t hear you complaining about regulation. What I hear you complaining about is the paperwork,” he said. “Frankly, walking through your barn, despite the unavoidable aroma, I was very impressed with how clean it was and bright. You’re talking about actually the paperwork and the details that a larger operation can absorb more easily, more readily than a smaller operation.”

“I know I’m not doing anything wrong, but the word IDEM just strikes terror in your heart,” Hawley said, citing inspections from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management. “I know where I put my manure on the fields. I know how much I’m putting it on.”

“If you want to put up a new building, you hire a lawyer to get that permit — I don’t think that was ever intended, to make it that kind of difficult to be able to put up a new hog barn,” he added.

“When we started farming here, the hogs were my part of the operation, and dad took the crops. Whenever I wanted to expand, at that time the neighbors didn’t care if I put up another barn. I wasn’t competing with them for land.

“I was expanding right here, and I wasn’t making any neighbors mad trying to overbid them on rent or anything like that. That was a neat thing about raising hogs at that time. But it’s all changed.”

Co-Alliance swine production manager Sam Moffitt said he also is worried about unfair and overly burdensome environmental regulations.

“Here in the state, IDEM have done a really good job — I worry more about what may come from the federal area, which we never know, especially with the current administration, that we might get more,” he said. “I just hope that Indiana stands up for what we do best and keeps the feds out of our business.”

Labor is another big issue for farming, said pigs-only veterinarian Max Rodibaugh of Swine Health Services in Frankfort.

“A real concern of ours is immigration reform, really getting it right,” he said. “Agriculture is in desperate need of just people to work on farms.”

Vocational education and, in particular, careers in agriculture should be emphasized, agreed Jeff Rodibaugh, chairman of the Indiana Pork Advocacy Coalition and ag lender at First Farmers Bank and Trust.

“We’ve got to make these ag jobs a priority for these kids that may work better with their hands than they do with the books,” he said. “We’ve got to make sure that we are championing our ag programs in our classrooms.”

Hawley touted the skills that can be gained through FFA.

“It really is an important training ground for people, whether they go into ag or not. That’s where I learned to speak and parliamentary procedure and how to deal with meetings and how to deal with people,” he said. “FFA has expanded so much — it’s much more than just farming.”

The governor noted he is signing legislation to establish regional working groups to design high school curriculum, a unique measure intended to help make Indiana a national leader in education.

“That will give young people relevant curriculum career pathways in high school for jobs that are available in their area,” Pence said. “I’m somebody that believes that every one of us has different God-given gifts and abilities — what education ought to be about is peeling back the onion layers and letting our kids figure out where their passion is.”

Mike Beard works with his son, David, and son-in-law, Chris Pearson, on Meadow Lane Farms in Frankfort, finishing 35,000 hogs a year, as well as operating a custom waste application business.

He previously served Indiana Pork and the Indiana Soybean Alliance and now is a board member of the Indiana Corn Marketing Council and the United Soybean Board, which represents soybean growers across the nation.

“I’ve had some opportunities through that to talk with other states,” he said, “how jealous they are, that Indiana is pro-agriculture growth.”

Pence said he is committed to agriculture for two reasons. First, he grew up in a small town in southern Indiana with a cornfield in his backyard, and as a teenager, his family had cattle.

“My dad and a couple business partners cleared land. I spent the longest summer of my life picking up sticks — I’ve done it,” he said. “That was when I had my first personal experience working in and around, at least, livestock production.”

In addition, during the 12 years that Pence was in Congress, he served six years on the House Committee on Agriculture.

“I really got a sense of the enormous contribution that people of the United States have made historically in encouraging an affordable and sustainable food supply in this country,” he said, explaining his appreciation for farmers is more than just some romanticized view of agriculture.

Whether a person is in business in the city or on the farm, at an office desk or in a cornfield, they have to be successful businesspeople, he stressed.

“We recognize the enormous economic implications of agriculture in Indiana,” the governor said. “I like to say to people, Indiana is a lot of things, but Indiana is agriculture, at our very core. I think it adheres to our identity. The work ethic and character of the people of Indiana, I think, derives out of our heritage close to the soil.

“But also Indiana is agriculture because it’s a $26-billion industry in the state. To the extent that Indiana has been able to weather some difficult times, particularly since the downturn of 2007, 2008 and beyond, is directly related to the muscular strength of our agricultural economy.”

“One of the great accomplishments of the last administration was making the commitment to not just make Indiana an ag state, but make Indiana a pro-agriculture state,” he added, praising former Gov. Mitch Daniels, who now is the president of Purdue University.

“I don’t know how you quantify this, but I’ve been told by people far afield from Indiana that we are widely considered after the progress of the last eight years to be the most pro-agriculture state in the country because we celebrate agriculture, we encourage it, we promote greater diversity in our agricultural economy, expanded export opportunities.

“Our entire administration is committed to continuing in that output, believing that, No. 1, agriculture is the core identity of our state as we approach our 200th anniversary, but also in terms of us achieving our goal of having more Hoosiers going to work than ever before in our state’s history, that we really see agriculture and the sector you all represent as a leading part of making the state more prosperous and more successful than it’s ever been before.”

Indiana is a leader in hog production, ranking fifth in the country, said Indiana State Department of Agriculture director Gina Sheets.

“What’s unique about Jay’s farm and the reason that we showcased this farm today on the tour is because Jay and Sue do diversified agricultural production,” she said, noting the family enhanced its production business to start Grandpa Jay’s Pork in 2006 and sell meat at farmers markets and restaurants. “Jay saw a niche in the market and an opportunity while being in a large industry to really grow a business.”

Indiana also is a leader in local food initiatives, Sheets said. While farmers markets grew 9 percent in the U.S., Indiana enjoyed a whopping 27-percent growth, expanding on the state’s 40-percent to 50-percent increase in the prior year, she said.

“We want to continue to support the great growth we’ve seen in pork,” Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann vowed. “We want to find those new markets, whether they’re international or local or both.

“We see agriculture in Indiana as the backbone of the state — so important. There are great opportunities, and we want to help make more possible for you.”