These are uncertain times. I have found myself saying that to our members on many occasions over the past couple of years; first because of trade disputes, then because of unusually cold or wet weather and now because of COVID-19.
I am writing to you from my farm, because of the recommendations made by health officials, most of us are now working from home. Fortunately, we are equipped to be productive from almost any location with internet access. We have made these changes out of an abundance of caution and for the safety and well-being of our employees.
I hope that you also are taking precautions to keep yourself safe. We need to heed the advice of experts and not take any unnecessary risks for our members or employees.
And while we may be distancing ourselves from one another, we cannot distance ourselves from the impact this pandemic is having on all of us.
Gov. Eric Holcomb on March 20 extended the state of emergency for an additional 30 days and ordered Indiana K-12 schools to remain closed through May 1. He also delayed state income tax payments until July 15 and waived penalties for 60 days for property taxes paid after May 11.
And, specific to agriculture, the State Department on March 19 announced that it was suspending all processing of new non-emergency visa applications in Mexico. This action can have serious implications for our members who depend on this seasonal workforce to help with spring planting.
Over the past few days, I have had multiple conversations with members of our congressional delegation, with American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall and with Bruce Kettler, the director of the Indiana State Department of Agriculture.
During these conversations I have stressed the importance of these H-2A guest workers to Indiana specialty crop farmers and how critical it is to have this labor force in place for planting season.
There also have been questions about the supply chain that plays a vital role in the delivery of not only food and fuel to Americans, but seed, fertilizer and other inputs to farmers.
We want to make sure the administration understand that this supply chain needs to remain open so that Indiana farmers will have uninterrupted delivery of inputs for spring planting.
And while not connected to COVID-19, the significant and sudden drop in petroleum prices has led to still another challenge for Hoosier farmers.
This price drop has resulted in negative profit margins for Indiana’s ethanol plants, so many plants have temporarily closed, eliminating ethanol plants as an option for our farmers who still have free-market corn on hand.
While we don’t know what tomorrow will bring, we do know that farmers are resilient and we have learned to accept the hands we are dealt. We will manage the challenges we face while making sure everyone understands the importance of Indiana agriculture to the well-being of all Hoosiers.
If you are hearing other issues that will impact our members, please share those with me. We want to make sure we are addressing the issues that are most critical to our members’ ability to be successful during these uncertain times.