January 28, 2021

Kettler: Opportunities to grow in 2021

2020. What an experience. We all felt some form of loss — a social life, a favorite hangout spot, Thanksgiving with our whole family, a typical education experience, some of us even lost loved ones. The global pandemic has not been an easy road to walk, and we are all a little bit stronger than we were last December.

Beginning in March, there were concerns from consumers, businesses and farmers alike. We had food chain disruptions, consumers began overbuying products and business leaders feared for the health of their employees.

I recall in March when each day would bring a new challenge that we had to resolve and overcome — at times it felt as though we were climbing Mt. Everest and still 20,000 feet from the summit.

But here we are.

Almost 12 months later and we have all learned so much, haven’t we? In my experience, Hoosiers have become more caring, more cautious and more grateful.

So, we are looking ahead. I can’t wait to begin 2021 and work our way back toward normal and experience new things.

We have some exciting work that will impact all sectors of our agriculture community, from FFA to dairy producers, from soil conservation to policy work. We are thrilled to see what 2021 has to offer and begin to help more and more members of the agriculture community.

In 2021, we are hoping to add two new FFA chapters in Vigo County, where there was once only one. We are grateful for this opportunity and thank the local school system, teachers and administration that have helped us during this process.

For economic development in January, we plan to roll out the new Indiana Dairy Strategy, which will outline Indiana’s overall dairy climate in terms of farming and processing, and it will highlight our strength as a top 10 agriculture state.

The economic development team is continuously looking for ways to add value to Hoosier products and to our agribusinesses. We hope to see more existing businesses expand in the new year and to attract new ones.

Our Indiana Grown organization is making strides by offering members an opportunity to sell products in their first ever online marketplace. Titled Shop Indiana Grown, shoppers from anywhere in the world can now purchase some of their favorite Indiana Grown products online — this is a wonderful opportunity for our members to expand their business and engage with new customers.

Well over half of Indiana State Department of Agriculture employees are stationed outside of Indianapolis in field offices or at their homes. Each field staff member helps farmers and businesses on a local level, and we are so thankful we are able to do that.

Our field staff consists of three different divisions, soil conservation, grain buyers and warehouse licensing and economic development.

Each year, our soil conservation division works with landowners and farmers and makes strides improving water quality and increasing cover crop usage or increasing soil conservation methods in the field.

For 2021, the soil division will continue that great work and focus with other partners on the 4Rs for nutrients — right source, right rate, right place, right time. For our grain buyers team and field staff, they plan to adjust workloads and to review and update their auditing process in the new year.

Indiana’s hardwoods sector is something we love to highlight whenever we can and now the opportunity for Hoosiers to learn more about our hardwoods can be available anywhere.

In 2021, Woods on Wheels plans to begin educating Hoosiers across the state with the mobile hardwoods education trailer. This educational tool is a partnership between the Indiana Hardwood Lumbermen’s Association, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and ISDA. We are excited to get this education piece of our hardwoods sector up and rolling.

Like every year, our policy team will be hard at work following bills from here to there and keeping tabs on what affects agriculture, our businesses or our constituents.

We know that the legislative session will look different for 2021, but I am hopeful our legislators and their staff will be able to stay healthy and continue their vital work for Hoosiers across our state.

And now that just leaves one thing left on my list to discuss in regards to 2021 — hope. I am going to start each year as I always do, full of hope for the days ahead.

I am hopeful we will all continue to come together as a nation, that we will begin to get healthier and healthier each day, that we will all start our days filled with gratefulness. I am also hopeful for our state.

May we begin to expand our current businesses and attract new ones, may we keep finding cures, may we keep advancing technology and our overall agriculture industry.

For 2021, I choose hope.

Bruce Kettler is the director of the Indiana State Department of Agriculture.