(Statehouse) February 22, 2005 – A bill to establish a new Indiana Department of Agriculture, co-authored by Representative Steve Heim (R – Culver), was passed out of the House of Representatives today by a vote of 96 to 0. House Bill 1008 will now move to the Senate for further consideration.
By law, the Lieutenant Governor will hold the position of Secretary of Agriculture and Rural Development. However, the Daniels-Skillman administration has tapped Andy Miller to act as the state’s first Director of Agriculture. This will be a cabinet level position in the new Governor’s administration. Also, under HB 1008 an Office of Rural Affairs will be formed. This agency will focus on improving the quality of life in rural communities.
“I am pleased to see a bill that emphasizes the significance of agriculture to Indiana’s economy and heritage. The new Department of Agriculture will help the state serve rural communities more effectively,” said Rep. Heim.
Agriculture is a significant contributor to Indiana’s economy. According to the Indiana Agriculture Statistics Service, commodity production alone contributes $5.2 billion annually to the state domestic product. In addition, over 43,000 people make their livings on Indiana farms.
Many state government functions focused on rural issues will be transferred into the Office of Rural Affairs. Over the next several months the structure and function of both this office and the Department of Agriculture will be determined through an aggressive strategic planning process.
“The reorganization of the Department of Agriculture will benefit rural economies and the state as a whole. Streamlining the services available through this department will help increase productivity in Indiana’s agricultural industries,” said Rep. Heim.