The newly named director of ISDA who will take the reins in January is glad that the Indiana FFA Association is under the wings of the Indiana State Department of Agriculture. That move took place under the leadership of then director Joe Kelsay and then Secretary of Agriculture Becky Skillman while Mitch Daniels was governor.
"Our goal will be to take the FFA to new heights," he says. "At the same time we recognize that 4-H is also a valuable program for youth which is another one of Indiana's strengths."
Recently, cuts have been rumored in the FFA budget under ISDA. The cuts actually come from the Department of Education, which was channeling money to ISDA to support the FFA program. While McKinney noted he wasn't up to speed on specifics of how FFA could be funded more completely, he did comment about his thoughts on youth leadership in general.
"We have the crown jewel of youth organizations here," he says. "There is no better organization for youth development. It is premier youth development.
"There will be issues. Indiana is a conservative state and we have to stay within our budget. Right now I don't know how we will solve these issues and help FFA stay strong and grow, but we will. It's too important to Indiana to let it slide. We can't let it slide and we won't."
Secretary of Agriculture Sue Ellspermann added that she shares many of McKinney's views, and believes these youth organizations fit well with the goal of the Pence/Ellspermann administration to strengthen vocational training in Indiana.
"What everyone is talking about in education right now is STEM, which stands for science, technology, engineering and math," Ellspermann says. "Agriculture education is STEM. Somebody needed to say it, so we said it. The expanded application of STEM in agricultural education programs is very important to us."