Interview with Ted McKinney, Director, Indiana State Department of Agriculture

Ted McKinney

The following interview with Ted McKinney, director, Indiana State Department of Agriculture, appears in World Agriculture Outlook 2014-2015 Edition.

Ted McKinney was sworn in as director of the Indiana State Department of Agriculture (ISDA) on Jan. 7, 2014, by Gov. Mike Pence.

With more than 25 years of agriculture leadership experience, McKinney brings an extensive knowledge and understanding of Indiana and global agriculture to ISDA. Prior to joining ISDA, he was director of Global Corporate Affairs for Elanco Animal Health, a subsidiary of Eli Lilly and Company.

 

World Agriculture Outlook: How big a part of the state’s economy is agriculture? And how much of that is exports?

Ted McKinney: Since Indiana’s early years, agriculture has played an important role in Indiana’s economic development and cultural identity. Agriculture and its related businesses have grown to be a vital part of the state’s economy. Agriculture generates $25.4 billion towards Indiana’s GDP, contributes to more than 475,000 jobs, and exported over $4.7 billion in agricultural products.

 

What are Indiana’s top export commodities?

Nicknamed “The Crossroads of America,” Indiana is geographically located in the heartland of the United States, which gives the state the ability to distribute goods throughout the world effectively and efficiently. With the assistance of Indiana’s world-class transportation and logistics systems, we are able to export a wide range of agricultural products to all corners of the globe.

Some of Indiana’s top exports include soybeans, corn, pork, feed and fodder, and grain products.

 

How does Indiana compare to other states in terms of agricultural production?

Indiana is a national and global leader in agriculture. The state is a top 10 agricultural exporter in the nation. Domestically, we ranked first in duck production and wood/lumber production. Indiana is also ranked first in the nation in popcorn production and second in ice cream production.

Other rankings for Indiana include second in tomato processing and mint; third in chicken; fourth in soybeans, egg production, peppermint, and cantaloupe; fifth in corn and pork; and sixth in turkeys and watermelon.

 

How has agriculture evolved in Indiana in terms of percentage of the population involved in agriculture? Or in terms of acreage dedicated to crops/livestock?

Over the years, Indiana has seen a subtle decrease in younger farmers and an increased number of our older farmers. We recognize that the decrease in younger farmers is an issue, but Indiana is not alone in this. Nationally, we are seeing [fewer] young people go to work on the farm, and instead find jobs in metropolitan areas. But there is potential for change.

To start, we look to the FFA. Indiana is proud to be the home of the National FFA headquarters and also of the large number of FFA members we have in the state. Within Indiana, we’re anticipating to have over 11,000 members, maybe even 12,000, this year, which would be another record-breaking year for Indiana FFA. Some of the largest growing chapters are located in urban areas around the state. With record growth in Indiana FFA, especially in urban areas, we’re looking to reconnect the younger population to agriculture.

With an average farm size of about 245 acres, farms and forests make up 19.4 million acres in Indiana, which is roughly 83 percent of the total land area in Indiana dedicated to agriculture. Indiana has the jobs and land for our next generation to begin successful careers. The demand is only going to increase – especially as the world’s population grows from 7 to 9 billion people by 2050. The demand for quality products produced in Indiana is real.

 

How does the ISDA facilitate communications between international buyers and Indiana suppliers?

The Indiana State Department of Agriculture recently returned from an international trade mission in Asia. The trade mission consisted of 24 members, ranging from agricultural business leaders, commodity representatives, and educators to governmental officials and public affairs personnel.

We visited Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan, and met with prospective importers of Indiana goods, government officials, commodity trade groups, trade associations, and research universities. This mission was designed to assist Hoosier agricultural businesses with entering and expanding export sales in Asian markets.

The mission was a tremendous success. The entire delegation established trusted relationships with influential foreign officials and business executives. We’re already planning our next mission, which will take place in 2015.

To remain in constant contact with our friends and partners abroad, ISDA has an international affairs program manager, who is communicating daily with those outside the U.S. ISDA also works very closely with another agency, the Indiana Economic Development Corporation, which helps with connecting international prospects with Indiana businesses.

 

What type of resources does your office offer local producers?

Unlike other state agricultural agencies throughout the nation, ISDA is not a regulatory agency, but rather an advocacy agency. We offer a variety of programs for Hoosier producers, such as the Certified Livestock Producer Program, and an upcoming revamp of the Indiana Grown program.

The Certified Livestock Producer Program was founded in 2008 in order to recognize livestock producers who go above and beyond in their practices on the farm. In order to be considered a Certified Livestock Producer, applicants must meet certain standards, which include animal care, environmental stewardship, security, emergency planning, and community relations. Members are recognized as being some of the highest-quality producers in Indiana.

We also are in the process of revamping the current Indiana Grown program. The Indiana Grown program was created to brand and promote Indiana produce and production, with the goal for consumers to find and purchase Indiana grown products. This program is a high priority for ISDA. Indiana consumers have expressed a desire for locally produced foods, and we hope to meet those needs by providing new market opportunities for Hoosier growers. In several instances, consumers are willing to pay a premium for Hoosier products – especially in other states. From high-tech and low-tech operations, we see the Indiana Grown program as a valuable asset to Hoosier producers and consumers.

We also provide a variety of grants to help further the advancement of Indiana agriculture. Some of our more popular grants include specialty crop block grants, livestock promotion grants, youth education grants, and also water quality improvement grants.

 

Can you highlight a program or two in place to assist companies with international marketing efforts?

The State of Indiana Department of Agriculture offers companies a number of resources to assist in their growth, both nationally and internationally. ISDA’s export consulting services assist companies in identifying potential buyers and new international markets and find partners for joint ventures and strategic alliances.

Indiana is a member of the Food Export Association of the Midwest. Food Export offers a variety of programs and services to help exporters of Midwestern and Northeastern food and agricultural products begin or expand their international sales. Our services that assist U.S. exporters include exporter education, market entry, and market promotion. On Oct. 29-30, 2014, the Indiana State Department of Agriculture will host, along with Food Export-Midwest, an export seminar to educate both the beginner and seasoned exporters at Purdue University. This event will be attended by Indiana agribusinesses [that] wish to explore the export markets.

In addition to the training programs, ISDA participates in a variety of trade shows featuring potential markets for Indiana products. The U.S. departments of Agriculture and Commerce have a range of services to assist international buyers in locating American suppliers and sourcing products. Indiana partners with these federal agencies to help build markets for U.S. products around the world.

 

What are you doing that differs from other states?

At ISDA, we’re constantly on the road touring Indiana and other states as well. We have a tremendous staff working throughout Indiana in the fields to help provide insight to beneficial farm practices. Such practices include no-till farming, cover crops, and the importance of water quality. In Indiana, we have a unique relationship with a variety of local, state, and federal agencies that are not found in other states. Because of this strong bond between partnering agencies, trade associations, and commodity groups, we’re able to make Indiana more of an agricultural beacon for the entire nation. Not only is ISDA active in Indiana, but also in other states.

You can expect to see and hear more from Hoosier agriculture in a variety of events outside the borders of Indiana.

 

Caption: Ted McKinney, director of the Indiana State Department of Agriculture. Credit: USDA photo by Ken Hammond

Leave a Comment

  • (will not be published)