The Indiana State Department of Agriculture started what it calls the ISDA Certified Livestock Producer Program several months ago. One of the first recipients, Joe Kelsay, is now ISDA director. The agency continues to be serious about encouraging producers to take part in this voluntary program.
So serious, in fact, that ISDA recently issued a press release to announce that Pete Eshelman of Heritage Farms in Whitley County recently completed the voluntary program. So serious in fact that Lt. Governor Becky Skillman, who also serves as the Secretary of Agriculture, took time out to complement on the northern Indiana livestock producer's accomplishment.
"Our Indiana livestock and poultry producers' personal values embody integrity, responsibility and accountability," Skillman says. "These values and more are required to complete this program. I congratulate Pete who now joins other exceptional producers who have demonstrated their commitment to these values through using progressive practices and procedures."
The idea behind the program is to show the public that the vast majority of livestock producers are skilled at what they do, are ethical in how they treat their animals and customers, and are good environmental stewards. Some insiders believe it's an attempt to counteract the bad press a few bad actors get when the Indiana Department of Environmental Management must take action against one of the very few operations that aren't operated properly according to good standards.
The Certificate isn't taken lightly, Skillman promises. Those who receive it demonstrate rigorous skills in meeting the highest industry standards in environmental protection, animal health, bio-security as it relates to livestock, emergency planning and neighbor relations. The icing on the cake comes when the producer signs the Producer Promise. It's a document that commits him or her to meet or exceed the high standards set apart in the Certified Livestock Producer Program.
The program was launched in July, 2008. Since then 25 Hoosier livestock producers have received the Certificate. Only a few states operate such voluntary programs, officials note.
This is only one effort spearheaded by ISDA and Skillman to convince the public that livestock producers have the public's best interests at heart. Underway through April 11 is Farmers Feed Us, an Internet campaign that features eight Indiana farmers in various segments of the livestock business, capture don the Internet showcasing their operations and why they do the things they do. A national program, Indiana is only the fifth state to offer it to consumers. So far, thousands of consumers have visited the site and watched the farmer videos. The carrots are two $5,000 free-groceries for a year certificates to be awarded after the program ends.
Check it out at: www.farmersfeedus.com.