On my way from Auburn to Indianapolis during legislative sessions, I always admire the beautiful Hoosier landscape that’s been sculpted for more than two centuries. Fields of corn and soybeans line the roads and highways, and it isn’t any wonder that 84% of the state’s total land area is occupied by farms and forests. With the majority of land used for agriculture, this industry has a major impact for Hoosier workers and our state’s economy.

Our agriculture industry is estimated to contribute $31.2 billion to the state’s economy, making it one of the largest industries in our state. According to the Indiana Corn Marketing Council and the Indiana Soybean Alliance, agriculture in Indiana provides around 200,000 jobs, which is one of the most productive agricultural workforces in the country by statistical categories. Below are Indiana’s rankings.

• No. 1 in commercial duck production, hardwood veneer, wood office furniture and wood kitchen cabinet manufacturing;

• No. 2 in popcorn production, ice cream production, tomatoes (processed) and total eggs produced;

• No. 3 in spearmint, tomatoes (all), engineered wood products and cropland planted with a cover crop;

• No. 4 in pumpkins, peppermint, pre-fabricated wood buildings and turkeys raised; and

• No. 5 in corn (for grain), soybeans, watermelon, upholstered household furniture and hog production.

These rankings could not be achieved without the hard work of our Hoosier farmers and laborers. As of this year, there are 56,649 farming operations across the state, 96% of which are family owned or operated.

It is important we maintain our rich heritage of farming and support organizations like the FFA to educate our youth in science, math, communication, leadership, management and technology. The FFA has more than 12,500 Hoosier students, which will help meet the needs for highly trained individuals in agriculture for the future.

To help maintain and improve our rankings, this year I supported House Enrolled Act 1119, which allows public schools to purchase up to $7,500 of food from a youth agricultural education program. Last year, I supported Senate Enrolled Act 184, which allows the Indiana Farm Bureau to offer a health care benefit to its members. I have voted in favor of legislation that supports agriculture and farmers, and I will continue to do so while I am in the Senate.

What do you think?

State Sen. Dennis Kruse is a Republican from Auburn.

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