Indiana Farm Bureau

Indiana’s top agriculture official has been tapped to oversee global farm trade for the Trump administration.

Indiana Department of Agriculture director Ted McKinney now faces a Senate confirmation to become the USDA’s first-ever trade undersecretary.

He says he’s grateful for the support he’s received since getting the news.

“I am so honored to be nominated by the president, and I look forward to serving if confirmed,” McKinney says.

The cost of an Independence Day picnic’s worth of groceries continued to drop in Indiana this year, as part of a race to the bottom in the prices of competing food products.

The Indiana Farm Bureau tracks the cost of different sets of grocery items throughout the year. For July Fourth, it’s a 10-person barbecue – hot dogs, hamburgers and ribs, watermelon and other sides, plus drinks and condiments.

It all costs $51.50 this year, down 35 cents from last year and about 75 cents from 2014.

Uneven, wet weather is complicating the growing season for Indiana farmers.

There’s much more cash cropland this week that has too much moisture in its soil than at this time last year, according to the USDA’s latest crop progress report.

And the federal agency says the current condition of Indiana’s corn and soybeans isn’t as good as it was a year ago.

The $130 billion merger between Dow and DuPont received conditional federal approval Thursday.

The companies still have to address areas where the Department of Justice says they’ll have too big a market share, but those aren’t the areas that have Indiana farmers worried.

In approving the merger, the DOJ says Dow and DuPont have to relinquish control of a few assets – a chemical plant in Texas for Dow, and two of DuPont’s insecticide and herbicide brands.

As Indiana farmers hurry through planting season – the corn crop is nearly three-quarters planted as of Monday, with soybeans nearly half done – they’re also watching big changes at the USDA.

The department is reorganizing its trade and rural development programs, while the White House takes aim at those issues in its own way.

An older audience of Indiana Farm Bureau members heard a younger perspective at their annual conference in Indianapolis this past weekend – from the head of millennial engagement at agribusiness giant Monsanto.

Vance Crowe told Hoosier farmers they should rethink how they communicate about the food system.

Crowe is one of many recent hires at Monsanto tasked with changing the public narrative about GMOs, industrial agriculture and other controversial issues.

There are at least four Indiana names rumored to be on President-Elect Donald Trump’s short list for Secretary of Agriculture.

Most of the Hoosier prospects to run the U.S. Department of Agriculture were on the Trump campaign’s agricultural advisory team.

Those prospects include Indiana State Agriculture Secretary Ted McKinney, seed corn farmer and former Congressional hopeful Kip Tom and Fair Oaks Farms CEO Mike McCloskey.

sciondriver / https://www.flickr.com/photos/minidriver/14307500816/

A Michigan senator is introducing legislation that would let urban farmers access the traditional agricultural safety net.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) says urban farming tactics such as community gardens and rooftop, hoop house or vertical growing are letting more people get into the business.

She told reporters on a press call Monday that she wants to make sure these farmers are included in the 2018 Farm Bill -- an omnibus package of food and agricultural policy that was last reauthorized in 2014.

Annie Ropeik / Indiana Public Broadcasting

The list of big agribusinesses pursuing mergers is growing, and their plans could affect Indiana facilities.

Germany's Bayer is buying St. Louis-based Monsanto, and two Canadian fertilizer-makers, Potash and Agrium, announced Monday that they'll seek to join forces, too.

Potash just opened a $90 million fertilizer distribution warehouse and rail hub in Lake County, but its future is now unclear.

Annie Ropeik / Indiana Public Broadcasting

More than 250 Indiana Farm Bureau members met in Indianapolis Saturday Aug. 27 to finalize the the organization’s 2017 positions on agricultural policy – from land use and environmental protection issues, to education and rural development.

  The delegates from each county farm bureau spent about five hours voting on line edits to their official stances. That included adding support for Indiana’s right to farm law, and for a balance between state funds for rural development and money for more urban-centric programs like the Regional Cities Initiative.

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