INDIANAPOLIS — State Sen. Jean Leising, R-Oldenburg, has dedicated her career to politics.

As chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, she is heavily involved in issues that are important to farmers.

She answered questions during a Women of Indiana Agribusiness seminar hosted by the Agribusiness Council of Indiana June 7.

Here are the top takeaways:

On Trade

We have to hope that what’s going on nationally with trade will actually, in the long run, make for a more positive environment for agriculture.

On Being A Leader

I serve in a Senate that is primarily men. Out of 50, there are nine women. I don’t think about being a woman. I just go after the issues. But there are some guys who try to intimidate. You have to stand strong for what you believe in. Stay committed to whatever the issue is. But you also have to learn to work with others.

On Bipartisanship

There are issues that each party has to dig in their heels and say “This is a partisan issue.” But so many issues aren’t. So many issues pass the Legislature with bipartisan support.

On The Ag Economy

There’s no doubt it’s tough. I wish I could tell you that there would be state funds to bail out farms that can’t pay their loans with possibly no crop this fall, or just insurance money for their crop. It’s not going to be a pretty financial environment. It’s really quite scary.

On Her Background

I was a nurse by profession. When I finished nursing school, I married my first husband, moved to his family farm and, unfortunately, 11 years after we were married, he was killed in a farming accident. So, I took over the management of our farm at that time with two employees.

I got more involved in Farm Bureau and other organizations, especially the Corn Growers Association. An all-male board, in about 1986, elected me president of the State Corn Growers Association.

On Getting Into Politics

The Corn Growers Association took me, a volunteer, to the statehouse to testify before the Senate and House ag committees. Two of the senators on the ag committee said, “We think your senator is going to retire. We think you ought to run for the Senate.”

In 1988, I was elected to the Senate for the first time. I was re-elected in 1992. I ran for Congress in ‘94, ‘96 and ‘98. Then I was out of elected office for 12 years. I thought I was done. But it never gets out of your blood.

On Fair Oaks Farms Animal Cruelty Allegations

First of all, unfortunately for Fair Oaks, they had at least four really bad employees. It sounds like they did the right thing in removing them. We all could be in a situation, no matter what business you’re in, that you have a bad employee.

I think Fair Oaks has done the right thing in trying to get rid of the folks causing the trouble. They’ll probably keep a more watchful eye. It won’t surprise me if we have some kind of cruelty to farm animals legislation proposed for this next session because of that. Nobody likes to see animals harmed in any way.

Erica Quinlan can be reached at 800-426-9438, ext. 193, or equinlan@agrinews-pubs.com. Follow her on Twitter at: @AgNews_Quinlan.

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