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COLUMN: Family farmers power Indiana’s agriculture economy

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By LLOYD ARNOLD
District 74 State Representative

March is Agricultural Appreciation Month in Indiana, celebrating the prominent role that agriculture plays in our state. The cornerstone of Indiana’s economy and spirit resides in our great agricultural community.

According to the National Agriculture Statistics Service, there are 62,000 farms in Indiana with more than 14 million acres of farm land. The Hoosier state brings in around $26 billion every year to the state’s economy.

I am proud to recognize the families from our community who have contributed to the growth of Hoosier agriculture and received a Hoosier Homestead Award.

The Hoosier Homestead Award program began in 1976 by former Lt. Gov. Robert D. Orr and the Indiana Department of Commerce’s Division of Agriculture. The program has recognized more than 5,000 farms since it was established.

The Hoosier Homestead Award recognizes families with farms that have been owned and maintained by the same family for at least 100 years and consists of a minimum of 20 acres or produce $1,000 worth of agricultural products per year.

On Friday, March 21, 51 Hoosier families, four of which are from our community, were recognized with a Hoosier Homestead Awards. The awards were presented at the Indiana Statehouse by Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann and Agriculture Director Gina Sheets.

There are three levels of recognition family farms may qualify for: the Centennial Award for 100 years of ownership, Sesquicentennial Award for 150 years of ownership or Bicentennial Award for 200 years of ownership. I want to personally congratulate the Auffart, Bilderback, Johanneman, and Key families for their hard work reinforcing Indiana’s rich farming traditions for more than 100 years.

The Key family resides in Marengo and received the Sesquicentennial Award.  The Key family’s farm, the Agan Homestead, has been owned and operated since 1825.

The Auffart and Johanneman families received the Sesquicentennial Award and reside in Ferdinand. The Auffart farm has been owned and operated since 1843. The Johanneman farm has been owned and operated since 1854. The Bilderback family lives in Holland and received the Centennial Award. The Langebrake-Bilderback farm has been owned and operated since 1901.

I want to congratulate all four of these families who have provided a wonderful representation of Hoosier commitment to our thriving agricultural economy. More than 100,000 Hoosiers work directly on farms or agricultural processing and food manufacturing sites, producing food and food products for the state, nation and global marketplaces, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

In 2010, Indiana was ranked the eighth largest agricultural exporter in the nation, exporting $3.4 billion worth of primary commodities and processed goods. Approximately 18,100 Hoosier jobs and an estimated $620 million in income can be directly linked to these exports, according to the Indiana Business Research Center.

It is because of dedicated and hardworking Hoosier families like the Bilderbacks, Auffarts, Johannemans and Keys that Indiana continues to be a leader in agriculture. I wish the Hoosier Homestead recipients another 100 plus years of plentiful harvests and good fortune as they continue to strengthen Indiana’s farming traditions. For more information on the Hoosier Homestead Award Program, visit www. in.gov/isda/2337.

Arnold represents Perry County in the Indiana House of Representatives.