Ted McKinney will become the next Director of the Indiana State Department of Agriculture in just a few weeks. He fielded questions from the local media and rural press when he was introduced as the pick for the new director to succeed Gina Sheets, who is retiring to pursue other interests.
McKinney, originally from Tipton, quickly showed he is no stranger to the podium, or to the hot seat. Don't expect him backing down form questions. He might not always have the answer at hand, but there's no mistaking he intends to find it if you give him time.
Here's a sampling of questions he handled at his initial press conference.
Question: What are the biggest challenges for Indiana agriculture in the near future?
McKinney: The challenge is to knit all the great pieces we have here together. Put another way, we need to assemble the pieces of the puzzle. Retailers need to talk to processors, and farmers need to be in the loop. Indiana agriculture has a good story to tell, and we need to tell it. I truly believe we can bring about an alignment that will help Indiana agriculture.
Q: What are the strengths of Indiana agriculture now?
McKinney: We have farms and forests, but we also have companies like Nestle in food production, Dow AgroSciences, Elanco and more. We're up to the challenge. We can knit these pieces together and form a strong framework for agriculture.
Q: Freedom to farm and taking in cameras to video things on farms is likely to be a big issue in the legislature in January. How will you address that?
McKinney: We'll deal with it. It's a complex issue. I firmly believe that it is absolutely not fair for someone to sneak a camera onto a farm or any other type of business for the express purpose of getting pictures to hurt the business. There's no doubt this will be a difficult decision. But we'll get through it.