The national group that makes National Farm and City Week came to Indianapolis just days ago to kick off National Farm/City Week, which runs through this week. "It's traditionally during the week of Thanksgiving because we want to recognize how thankful we are for food we have in this country," says Al Pell, South Bend, a native Hoosier who chaired the national committee this year.
Keynoting the kickoff event was Becky Skillman, lt. governor and Secretary of Agriculture in Indiana. "There's never been a more important time to bring people together to let the general rural people and suburbia connect with each other," Skillman began.
"Agriculture is the heartbeat of our state. We firmly believe that if we can get agriculture will help lead us out of this current financial downturn and bring the economy back to full speed. Nothing could be better than keeping this industry healthy."
Skillman cited the leadership of Hoosiers in agriculture, ranking 5th in hogs produced, first in ducks, and producing 3 billion gallons of milk annually. "The health of the livestock industry is important because it makes a healthy grain industry as well."
Skillman was frank about problems encountered since her term began five years ago in certain counties with those who don't want livestock operations to expand. She specifically cited Jay and Randolph Counties as places where the issues were debated, and noted that through the State Department of Agriculture, the state attempted to assist by holding informational meetings to get the facts out.
The theme for the national farm /city week kickoff was separating myth from facts when it comes to animal agriculture.
"Our confined animal feeding operations are strictly regulated here," she noted. "Regulation falls under the Indiana State Board of Animal Health, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, the Office of the State Chemist and at the federal level, the Environmental Protection Agency."
"There's been a great deal of misunderstanding about what CAFO's would bring to a community," Skillman continues. "We've worked hard to get the facts out."
Skillman also noted that this year in particular is one where hog producers need the facts communicated to the public. "It's especially important that the public know that farmers take care of their animals, and that pork is safe to eat," she observed, in light of the H1N1 issue. People calling it swine flu and thinking pork isn't safe to eat is unfortunate."