Indiana Agriculture Insider

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Letter from the Director: Looking back, moving forward

Ted McKinney

New Year’s is a time of celebration and reflection. As we bid 2016 adieu, I would like to take a brief moment to reflect on this past year and offer some insight into 2017.

We all know that life comes with ups and downs, and Indiana agriculture certainly experienced its fair share of both in 2016. Unfortunately, for most farmers, this was a tough year, as depressed prices caused production costs to exceed profits.

We also started off this year with a highly-pathogenic avian influenza virus outbreak in southwestern Indiana. Although this impacted our poultry industry, due to the quick response by the Board of Animal Health, and the strong collaboration between the industry, and many governmental agencies, the state was able to achieve avian influenza-free status more quickly than expected and even set policy for response when dealing with large animal health emergencies.

Despite these challenges, there were also many successes in 2016. National FFA Convention was back in Indianapolis for the first of nine years, and FFA experienced remarkable growth with records set in both Indiana and National FFA membership. In 2017, we will continue to support both of these youth organizations making them a cornerstone of leadership in Indiana.

Our Indiana Grown initiative reached new highs and now has over 600 members. I’m eager to build on this momentum in 2017 and will continue to lift up all sectors of agriculture, whether it’s a large or small operation, high-tech, low-tech, traditional or non-traditional.

Numerous major agricultural economic development projects were announced, and Indiana continues to be on the frontlines of innovation, led by AgriNovus Indiana. My team and I look forward to helping existing food and ag businesses grow and will pursue bringing even more companies and jobs to our state.

I’m particularly proud that our incoming administrations, both at the state and federal level, have strong support for agriculture. My hope is that we see sizeable relief in the federal overreach in regulations coming out of Washington, D.C., especially on issues like WOTUS, and to only see policies pass that work for the industry, not against it.

In addition to many other successes, we also remained good stewards of the land and water through the voluntary conservation efforts of farmers. Our department, along with Indiana’s conservation partners and the agricultural community, is demonstrating leadership in clean water and care for the environment, which we will continue in 2017.

With a new year on the horizon, I truly believe this is an exciting time for Indiana agriculture and that we have a lot to look forward to in 2017. Next year, my primary hope is that we see a rebound in commodity prices to ease the incredible financial pressure on our farmers, so I encourage you to stay optimistic and to continue to do what farmers do best: persevere.

I hope you and your family have a Happy New Year!

All the best,


Ted McKinney


Making your voice heard

The next legislative session is right around the corner. From agriculture to infrastructure, many issues will be discussed this year by members of the General Assembly, and it's important to stay up-to-date and get involved on those important to you and your family. 

However, it can be challenging to know how to get involved or where to begin, so let's start with some of the basics.



In Indiana, the General Assembly is comprised of two legislative bodies (House and Senate). The current makeup in the Senate is 41 Republicans and 9 Democrats, and in the House, 70 Republicans and 30 Democrats – for a grand total of 150 lawmakers. Representatives in the House serve 2-year terms, and Senators serve 4-year terms, which was established in the Constitution of 1851.

Indiana is a part-time Legislature, and bills can only be passed during the legislative session, which will convene on Tuesday, January 3, 2017 at 1:30 p.m. for the Senate and Wednesday, January 4, 2017 at 1:30 p.m. for the House.

This legislative session is a budget session, also referred to as a long-session, which means that the state’s two-year budget is up for review and must be passed by members of General Assembly. To learn more about the budgeting process in Indiana, which takes place during odd-numbered years, click here.

Now that you have a basic understanding of the makeup of the Legislature, below is a cheat sheet to help you get started this year:

  • To find your legislator, click here
  • To contact your legislator or get the latest news, visit their website by clicking here for the House Republicans or here for the House Democrats; or by clicking here for the Senate Republicans or here for the Senate Democrats
  • For a list of important dates and legislative deadlines, click here
  • For daily actions taken by the General Assembly, click here for the House or here for the Senate
  • For a full list of bills introduced for 2017, click here
  • To search for bills by subject matter, click here
  • For a list of bills pertaining to agriculture, click here
  • For a full list of committees, click here
  • For the committees pertaining to agriculture, click here for the House or here for the Senate
  • To find out when committees meet, click here for the House or here for the Senate
  • For a live video stream of the legislative session or committee meetings, click here for the House or here for the Senate

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Task force continues to tackle Gulf of Mexico dead zone

Improving water quality takes collaboration, especially when it comes to the Gulf of Mexico. For years, excess nutrients carried down the Mississippi River from multiple states have drained into the Gulf, creating a large area of low oxygen that cannot support aquatic life, referred to as a “dead zone.” These excess nutrients can come from a variety of different sources, such as wastewater treatment facilities or runoff from agricultural land, but they can also occur naturally, as a result of weathering of rocks/soil in the watershed or mixing of water currents in the ocean.

Dead zone

To tackle this issue in the Gulf, a task force was created in 1997 to understand the causes and effects of the nutrient pollution; coordinate activities to reduce the size, severity, and duration; and improve the effects of low oxygen, or hypoxia. Today, the Hypoxia Task Force, made up of state and federal agencies (including Indiana) and tribes, provides executive level direction and support for coordinating the actions of participating organizations working on nutrient management within the Mississippi River/Gulf of Mexico Watershed.

Since its inception, the task force has been able to provide new programs, funding and technical tools to support and reduce excess nutrients from entering the Gulf, such as the Gulf Hypoxia Action Plan 2008. From the time the plan was released, which was later updated in 2013, each state has developed their own nutrient reduction strategy, in collaboration with their partners, to better manage the issue. Click here to learn more about the Indiana Nutrient Reduction Strategy.


In 2015, the task force announced that it would retain the original goal of reducing the areal extent of the Gulf of Mexico hypoxic zone to less than 5,000 square-kilometers and extend the time of attainment to 2035. The task force also for the first time agreed on an interim target of a 20 percent nutrient load reduction by the year 2025.

This year, the task force met in Louisiana to discuss the progress that has been made by the states, collaborate on best management practices and to review the updated federal strategy. From Minnesota to Wisconsin, many states have implemented a variety of successful projects and programs to reduce nutrient loads entering the Gulf. To read some of the success stories, click here.

Although our work is ongoing and there is no quick solution, we will continue to assist farmers with their voluntary conservation practices and work with our partners to address this issue.

To learn more about ISDA's Division of Soil Conservation, and the many conservation programs and grants available, such as INfield Advantage and Clean Water Indiana, click here.


January 2
Office closed - New Year's

January 3
Legislative session begins – Senate

January 4
Legislative session begins - House

January 16
Office closed - Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

January 19
State Fair Commission meeting

January 21-22
Fantastic Food Fest, Indianapolis

January 26-27
Agribusiness Council of Indiana Annual Conference, Indianapolis

January 28
Certified Livestock Producer Training, Greensburg



Certified Livestock Producer Trainings
We have three more trainings left this winter for Indiana livestock producers interested in completing the Certified Livestock Producer Program.

To register for one of the trainings listed below, an application must be filled out, which can be found by clicking here, and returned to Kimmi Devaney at or mailed to: One North Capitol, Suite 600, Indianapolis, IN 46204. Each training will start at 10 a.m. and last until 3 p.m.

  • Jan. 28, 2017 in Greensburg, Ind. (Decatur County)
  • Feb. 15, 2017 in Monticello, Ind. (White County)
  • Feb. 21, 2017 in Loogootee, Ind. (Martin County)

Fantastic Food Fest
The Indiana State Department of Agriculture’s Indiana Grown initiative is proud to sponsor the second annual Fantastic Food Fest, the state’s largest interactive food and beverage event. Taking place Jan. 21-22 at the Indiana State Fairgrounds and Event Center, more than 100 Indiana Grown members will be showcasing their products in front of thousands of Hoosier consumers.



Holcomb Reappoints McKinney to Head ISDA

Brazil, Sullivan County share in better water grants

Indiana Poultry Producers Making a Difference with Donations

ISDA hosts trainings for livestock producers

McKinney among Purdue Extension award winners

MarketReady training to be offered at 2017 Indiana Hort Congress

Indiana Pork Donates Ground Pork Meals to Feeding Indiana's Hungry

Indiana Dept of Ag Pushing Trade to Help Boost Bottom Line

Holcomb Leading Trade Mission to U.K.

Indiana Farm Family of the Year: It's Miller Time



French Lick Winery

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French Lick Winery is a family owned winery located within the Indiana Uplands and is one of Indiana's premier wineries and a favorite stop along the Indiana Uplands Wine Trail. Their restaurant, Vintage Café, features fresh, homemade Italian cuisine in the relaxed atmosphere of the French Lick Winery tasting room. 


Mexican Christmas Punch

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1 gallon of water
1 package of frozen Mexican punch fruit
2 cups of brown sugar
2 packages of spiced apple cider mix
Easley Warm Mulled Wine

In a medium sized pot, combine water, cinnamon, sugar, apple cider, and fruit over medium to high heat for about 45 minutes or until the fruit is tender. Serve in a mug and add Easley Warm Mulled Wine to your liking. Serve Warm.



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