County's farm future pondered

Tuesday, May 8, 2007
Members of the Color Guard of the National Guard Amory in Greencastle present a static display in front of a flag-draped platform during veterans' memorial ceremony Saturday in Greencastle. Pamela Loucks with the State Forestry Department, presented the city with a Tree City Award. Joining her on the stage were Mayor Nancy Michael, Street Commissioner Paul Wilson and Lane Ralph, representing Sen. Richard Lugar's office.

With annual sales of more than $27.8 million, Putnam County's farm related businesses have a role to play in boosting the state's economy, according to state agriculture officials who were in the area recently.

They, along with local economic development partners and city officials, have been meeting in Greencastle to discuss the future of agriculture and its role in the state's economy. The group has met twice and a final meeting is going to be planned.

Agriculture Department Representative Deborah Abbott said the meetings, which will eventually be conducted in all 92 Indiana counties, are important because they give government officials an opportunity to learn more about their area's agriculture.

What they're learning is that Putnam County is home to more than 800 farms that pay a total of $1.6 million in annual worker wages, according to statistics from the Agriculture Department.

Additionally, Putnam County has 12 agriculturally related companies which pay $2.1 million in annual wages and have sales of more than $27.8 million. Local farmers spend nearly $44 million in yearly production costs, much of it within the county.

The meetings are part of the state's Agriculture Economic Development Initiative (AEDI) and began in 2005. Abbot said the Agriculture Depart-ment has conducted meetings in two regions of the state and is currently in the West Central Region.

In this region of the state, total sales from food, farm and forestry businesses are $305 million, according to agriculture officials. Yearly wages paid by those businesses are $52 million and combined property taxes paid by farms in the region are $8.6 million.

The six counties in the West Central Region are Clay, Parke, Putnam, Sullivan, Vermillion and Vigo.

The AEDI program was initiated because state officials believe Indiana's agriculture industry is a significant factor in what the governor has called "Indiana's economic comeback."

"During the pilot project in southwestern Indana, we discovered when you put local leaders in the same room with the same goal of improving their local economy, great things start happening," State Agriculture Director Andy Miller said in a press release.

Abbott said the Agriculture Department's goal is to simply facilitate the county meetings and assist them in creating a plan for the future growth of the industry. She said it will be up to the counties to implement their own plan.

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