The Indiana Department of Environmental Management and agriculture haven't always been the best of bedfellows. Before Governor Daniels was elected, many farm groups thought the agency was top-heavy on managers and unwilling to bend when it came to issues related to agriculture. Since IDEM is charged with protecting the waters of the state, and farming brings farmers in frequent contact with these waters, or close proximity to them, there have been times when the two sides haven't seen eye-to-eye.
Daniels kept a campaign promise and made sweeping changes at IDEM during his first week in office as Governor. He reminded IDSEM officials that their role was to prevent the bad actors in any industry form running amuck and fouling the environment. He also reminded them that their job was not to impose unnecessary regulations and burdens on businessmen, including farmers, who were following the rules.
Since then, the attitude between IDEM and agriculture has improved in most people's opinions. Stuck in the middle between the two sides, however, is what IDEM calls an ag liaison. It's a person IDEM hires to help relate IDEM's stand to farmers, and agriculture in general, and in return, represent agriculture's views to IDEM. It takes someone who understands both sides of a very sticky fence.
Past persons in this position include Dave Russell, now a farm broadcaster with the Brownfield Network. Currently, Russell is serving as Brownfield's field rep in Ohio, although his reports are still sometimes heard in Indiana. He will return next December to emcee the Hoosier Beef Congress.
Also formerly in that position was Andy Tauer, who now worlds for the Indiana Soybean Alliance. One of his roles today is writing and editing the Indiana Livestock Newsletter. This newsletter review and summarizes anything that could affect livestock agriculture. It's produced by the Indiana Soybean Alliance and developed via email to subscribers because of the commitment of Indiana soybean farmers to the livestock industry. Livestock producers remain the primary customer for Indiana soybeans.
The new liaison is Steven Howell. He hails from Jay County, where he has farmed with his family. He also has experience as a field representative for Indiana Farm Bureau, Inc. Howell in his current position will represent IDEM as it interfaces with ag groups, and help inform IDEM leaders about agriculture's position when IDEM must make key policy decisions.