On Thursday, Governor Pence appointed Gina Sheets as the new Director of the State Department of Agriculture. This week she is ready to hit the ground running. Sheets has been serving as the economic development director at ISDA for the past several years, so getting to know the agency will not be an issue, “I know where the coffee pot is at, so I am ready to go.” Lt. Governor Sue Ellspermann has made it clear that fostering economic development is the new mission for ISDA. Sheets will be the point person on the development of the food and agriculture innovation corridor that the Pence administration wants developed in Indiana. Sheets said her experience in economic development will allow her to get this project moving, “I know the economic development folks; I can speak their language; I can help get investments in local communities; and I really think we can develop an agricultural innovation corridor.” She said there are already several areas of the state that have started work on creating such a corridor.
Another top priority for Sheets will be to fill several key positions at the department, including several in the Division of Soil and Water Conservation, “They do a real good job of working together as an entity, especially with a big field staff; and I want to see that continue and get them the tools they need — and do that within some budgetary constraints.”
A role that Sheets has not had before is to be an advocate for agriculture and work with the non-farm public to articulate the needs of Indiana farm families. But it is a role that Sheets feels she can handle, “I have a business background; I have a farming background. So I feel I can deal with a variety of differences audiences with a variety of different agendas.”
She has been charged by the Governor to develop a strategic plan for agriculture within the next 30 days. She told HAT that plan will focus on growing Indiana’s ag economy and growing Indiana’s farming operations, “How do we bring sons and daughters back to the farm and help them be successful; and we are looking at ways to do that.”
Hear the complete interview with Gina Sheets[audio:http://www.hoosieragtoday.com//wp-content/uploads//2013/01/Sheets.mp3|titles=Sheets Ready to Get to Work]