Democratic Rep. Christina Hale and Republican State Auditor Suzanne Crouch are seeking the post of Lieutenant Governor, who is also the Secretary of Agriculture for Indiana. Both women tackled some of the top issues in Indiana agriculture in an hour long debate before a group of farmers and farm leaders at the Indiana State Fair on Tuesday. Hosted by the AgriInstitute and live streamed on the internet by Hoosier Ag Today, the debate covered a wide range of issues including infrastructure, livestock, economic development, conservation funding, tourism, renewable energy, exports, and more.
Neither of the candidates come from strong agricultural backgrounds, but both expressed strong support of agriculture and a desire to improve the business opportunities of farmers and the economies of rural Indiana. Both candidates held similar positions on most of the issues, but differed in their approach to finding a solution. Crouch spoke in general terms about ways to fund road and bridge repair in rural areas, while Hale outlined a revolving loan plan that she said will allow local communities to obtain funding for rural infrastructure. Both stressed the need for improved broadband coverage in rural areas, but again Hale referenced her loan fund concept while Crouch stressed federal grants and more cooperation from the major providers.
Both support expansion of the Indiana Livestock sector. Crouch favors the current home rule concept for local regulations, “We need to get the right tools to our local communities so they can make the right decisions.” Hale favors a top down approach with the legislature setting guidelines and regulations, “Leadership has to come from the top and be set by the Governor’s office and the Secretary of Agriculture.”
On the subject of forced annexation of rural areas, Crouch said a more regional economic development approach and partnerships with the state could provide more growth opportunities to cities and towns besides annexation. She said it was important for the agricultural community to reach out to legislators on the controversial topic. Hale said she was glad to help work on a bill last year that makes the process more rigorous for cities and towns to annex.
On the critical issue of funding soil and water conservation programs in the state, Crouch demonstrated a knowledge of and passion for the issue that overshadowed her opponent. Hale, on the other hand, was the only one to raise the issue of the serious drug problems that many rural areas are facing.
A panel of reporters asked the questions. They included: Gary Truitt, Hoosier Ag Today; Meghan Conant, Brownfield Network; and John Ketzenberger, Indiana Fiscal Policy Institute. The debate was moderated by Gerry Dick, Inside Indiana Business.
A complete video copy of the debate can be found on the Hoosier Ag Today YouTube channel. The event was sponsored by Ice Miller, Indiana Farm Bureau, the Indiana Soybean Alliance, and Indiana Corn. The live video stream on Hoosier Ag Today was sponsored by the Agribusiness Council of Indiana.