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‘Time for action, not panic’: State officials urge support for agriculture industry


INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana’s government officials and state leaders have been working tirelessly to protect Hoosiers against COVID-19, while helping to slow the spread of the dangerous virus.

Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch said right now Indiana’s attention is focused on dealing with COVID-19 and listening to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations to keep Hoosiers healthy and safe.

Crouch said Gov. Eric Holcomb has been working quickly to make decisive decisions, while taking measures to have a plan in place to protect Indiana citizens against COVID-19.

“Now is the time for action. Some think steps may be drastic, but it’s the time for action and not to panic,” Crouch said, adding that the governor’s office will continue to take steps to keep Hoosiers healthy and have an impact on the economy.

Crouch said Indiana is a huge agricultural state and having healthy options for Hoosiers to eat is a top priority.

Crouch said one way to help make sure farmers are better able to meet the need to Hoosier consumers during these difficult times is the possibility of reducing some barrier regulations, such as the regulation on the amount of hours a truck driver is allowed to drive.

Bruce Kettler, director for the Indiana State Department of Agriculture, said in the coming weeks he will have meetings with members of the Indiana State Board of Animal Health and other stakeholders in the industry to get their input on what barriers can be lifted while still meeting compliance regulations.

Kettler noted the spring season is the time when farms and agriculture operations tend to have more employees present, ranging from farmhands to people working in seed facilities.

“Some of these facilities are suspending workers, but at the same time they need to make sure folks are still in compliance,” Kettler said.

Crouch said that it is also important to reassure consumers that Hoosier-produced food is healthy and safe to eat for not only people in Indiana, but individuals throughout the rest of the country and even the world.

“People need to understand our food system is very safe and reliable,” Kettler said, adding that just because some barriers on truck weight limits and driver hours may be temporarily changed, it does not mean that food safety measures are being removed.

Another important issue facing agriculture right now, Kettler said, is it’s the time of year when farmers are gearing up to head to the fields for planting season.

“From a production and timing standpoint, it’s a critical time. Farmers need to be gearing up by getting fuel, seed and equipment,” Kettler said.

Kettler said that if Hoosier farmers aren’t able to do their job in providing a safe and dependable food supply as COVID-19 continues, the situation could get much worse.

“Farmers and businesses do what they need to do,” he said, adding that Hoosiers need to do everything they can to help farmers continue the planting process as normal as possible.

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