Indiana Agriculture Insider - ISDA's Monthly Newsletter

December 2015 Issue

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"O Christmas Tree"

The holidays are here; a time when loved ones come together, good food is enjoyed and family traditions are celebrated. One time-honored tradition that Hoosiers have passed down from generation to generation is decorating the family Christmas tree. 

Indiana has over 160 tree farms producing nearly 90,000 harvestable trees per year, according to the UDSA 2012 Ag Census. Many of these growers and retailers are part of the the Indiana Christmas Tree Growers Association, a non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of real Christmas trees and related products. Along with hosting events throughout the year, the organization also gives back by participating in great programs like Trees for Troops, which supports members of the military.

Growing a Christmas tree is extremely labor intensive. While the average growing time is seven years, did you know that it can take as many as 15 years to grow a tree of typical height? Also, most Christmas trees are grown on farms utilizing soil that does not support other crops.

Real trees are a renewable, recyclable resource, and the trees are shaped by annual pruning each year, a process known as shearing. The grower controls the development of the tree through shearing to create a bushy appearance and conical shape.

This year, as Hoosiers continue to partake in their holiday traditions, it is important to consider the countless families, such as the Dull family pictured below, who are working hard this time of year that make those holiday traditions possible.

Director Ted McKinney with the Christmas Tree Growers Association and the Dull family who donated the Christmas tree for the Lt. Governor's Family of Business Offices.

Partnership aims to combat poverty

This year, Indiana FFA, Heifer International and Lieutenant Governor Sue Ellspermann are partnering together to combat poverty and illiteracy on a global scale. The Read to Feed program, designated by Heifer International much like a read-a-thon, allows third and fourth grade students throughout the state to find sponsors who will, in turn, make a pledge to donate money for time spent reading. Once the read-a-thon is over, the contributions will be collected and provided to families in need for livestock and training, designated by Heifer International.

Another goal of Read to Feed is to serve as an educational opportunity for Hoosier students. In addition to encouraging them to read, the program provides Indiana FFA members the opportunity to raise awareness about international agricultural issues, such as food scarcity.

Students that participate in the program are also eligible to receive prizes based on two categories; most amount of time spent reading and most money raised per student. The reading competition begins Feb. 22 and runs through April 15. For more program details and additional information, please click here.

The Indiana FFA state officers at the Heifer International Ranch and headquarters in Little Rock, Arkansas

AgriNovus: Fostering collaboration in Ag BioScience

AgriNovus Indiana, an economic development initiative focused on Indiana’s Ag BioSciences industry, is a key partner with ISDA in a variety of capacities, such as increasing work in R&D, building industry relationships and supporting technology commercialization in Indiana. Over the last 12 months, AgriNovus Indiana has established a foundation built on collaboration and continues to foster teamwork among key players in the Ag BioSciences sector.

To date, they have accomplished this goal through four innovation council meetings in key areas including food and nutrition, plant science, animal health and precision agriculture. Several action items came out of those meetings including a workforce talent study to help identify gaps and opportunities to better align academia with industry requirements. The organization has successfully raised funds to advance the initiative and develop programs well into the future.

Part of AgriNovus’ mission is to attract investment to Indiana Ag BioSciences start-ups. Specifically, the organization has helped raise awareness and put start-up companies like Phytoption, ClusterTruck and Spensa Technologies in the national spotlight. 

Just recently, AgriNovus Indiana hosted the inaugural Indiana Ag BioSciences Innovation Summit meeting to support another key mission: to expand beyond traditional agricultural stakeholders and include influencers in other relevant sectors. The Innovation Summit attracted more than 200 influencers from several universities, as well as the Ag BioSciences, life sciences and technology industries to Indianapolis.With the connections made across these sectors, organizations in life sciences and technology can build synergies across industries. 

ISDA was an initial stakeholder in the AgriNovus Indiana initiative and is continuing its support moving forward. Recently, AgriNovus and ISDA collaborated to present to the Vigo County Economic Development Corporation, which included an audience of 30 to 40 business leaders. AgriNovus and ISDA staff will continue to work together with economic development agencies in the future.


Whose Waters are They?

The agriculture community is more than familiar with the Clean Water Act, which gives the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulatory jurisdiction over ‘waters of the United States.’ The law uses both water quality standards and technology based limitations to reduce pollution in water bodies, and any discharge into those waters requires a permit.

Power to regulate intrastate waters resides with the states. However, this federal–state jurisdictional divide is more confusing than it sounds and has required the intervention of the U.S. Supreme Court to clarify the definition of ‘waters of the United States.’ 

The most recent issue stemmed from EPA’s attempt to further clarify its jurisdiction by altering the definition of ‘waters of the United States.’ The law still exempts agriculture from permitting, but the broad sweep of the rule, especially provisions that apply to tributaries from covered waterways and their current and potential high water marks, creates confusion on what would and would not be considered ‘waters of the United States.’ 

Some estimates from Virginia and Pennsylvania suggest that, at its most extreme, the law would cover 99 percent of those states’ acreage as ‘waters of the United States. The final rule became effective on August 28th and several states immediately sued arguing that the rule was overly broad in its definition, would impinge on state regulatory authority and leave landowners confused as to whether or not it applies to them. The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a nationwide stay. 

On Monday December 14th, the Government Accountability Office determined that EPA violated anti-lobbying and propaganda provisions that were placed on agencies in two different appropriations acts when it turned to social media to advocate for its own rule. The implications of this ruling on a potential Supreme Court case are unclear but the Court could take up the case this term.

Featured in this Newsletter:

"O Christmas Tree"

Partnership aims to combat poverty

AgriNovus: Fostering collaboration in Ag BioScience

Whose Waters are They?


Key Dates:

January 13-15
SWCD Conference

January 16-17
Fantastic Food Fest 


RFS Update

Last week, the EPA finalized new volume requirements under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).  The volume requirements are higher than EPA's proposed rule, but still below statutory levels set by Congress. While the increase is a step in the right direction, many agriculture groups remain frustrated with the final rule and litigation is expected.


ISDA in the News:

Fighting for Future Farming Families

Ted Allen headlines new Indy food fest

Grant Program Targets Ethanol Expansion

Local group helps create Indiana grown holiday meals

How to bring local Indiana flavor to your holiday dishes

Lawrence, Jackson, Martin, Washington Counties Receive Clean Water Grant

Ag Leader 'Juiced' About $16B Industry


ISDA Reminders

Bicentennial  Torch Relay Torchbearer Nominations - deadline January 31, 2016

Purdue Extension Farming Together Series: Planning for Retirement and Estate Management

 Seymour:  Community Foundation of Jackson Co., January 12-13, 2016

 Wabash:  REMC Building, January 26-27, 2016

 Danville: Hendricks County Extension Office, February 2-3, 2016

• Evansville: Vanderburgh 4-H Center, February 9-10, 2016

 Rensselaer:  Jasper County Fairgrounds, March 1-2, 2016


ISDA Photos:

Field of cover crops in southeast Indiana
The Lt. Governor and Director McKinney met with the Indiana State Poultry Association after the annual poultry donation.

Indiana Grown Recipe of the Month:

Apple Crumble 


Indiana Agritourism Destination of the Month:

Dull's Tree Farm in Thorntown

Thank you to the Dull Family for donating the tree for the Lt. Governor’s Family of Business office in Indianapolis!

Contact ISDA:

Indiana State Department of Agriculture 
One  North Capitol Avenue, Suite 600 
Indianapolis, IN 46204
317.232.1362 FAX