Indiana has an agriculture history as rich as its soils. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has categorized much of the state as having a significant portion of prime farmland, defined as land best suited for food, feed, forage, fiber and oilseed crops. This, along with the state’s ample growing season and adequate moisture patterns, make it ideal for growing corn, soybeans and other crops.
“You’re not going to find land much better than this,” says Tanya Hall, community development regional extension educator at Purdue University. “Agriculture is alive and well in Indiana.”
A drive through Indiana’s countryside reveals fields of row crops, pastures of livestock and barns full of high-tech equipment.
Hall says, all of this and more encompass Indiana’s agriculture industry. It’s easy to see and appreciate the state’s rich agricultural heritage, but understanding the industry and its economic impact is more challenging.
“The agriculture industry involves more than production agriculture,” Hall says. “It also includes manufacturing, wholesale, storage, support services, tourism and retail operations.”
Agriculture’s Bounty, a 2013 report by the Indiana Business Research Center, estimated that row crops, including grain and oilseed farming, directly employed 54,360 individuals and indirectly employed 84,150. Row crops’ total economic output – not factoring for expenses – was $13.2 billion. Total agriculture sales equaled $11.2 billion in 2012.
“Indiana’s agriculture industry supports the state through jobs and capital,” Hall says.
Several global agricultural companies have locations in Indiana, and others, like Dow AgroSciences, call it home.
The company, headquartered in Indianapolis, provides a world-class portfolio of sustainable solutions for modern agriculture. From seeds to crop protection, these solutions help U.S. farmers meet the challenges of feeding a growing population.
Dow AgroSciences also actively collaborates with other Indiana companies to advance agricultural innovation in the state.
In September 2014, Dow AgroSciences announced a strategic research and development agreement with Elanco, an animal health company also based in Indianapolis. The agreement will focus on developing integrated solutions to enable livestock producers to increase meat and milk production.
“Dow AgroSciences is proud to work closely with another Indiana agricultural company to develop future product solutions for beef and dairy producers,” says Tim Hassinger, president and CEO. “Collaborating with Elanco is exciting because it unites the strength of their animal health expertise with our feed and forage expertise. Together, we will be looking for ways to develop total solutions that involve improving both the carrying capacity of the land and productivity of production animals.”
Growing into the Future
With examples like the Dow AgroSciences and Elanco partnership, Hall sees the importance of Indiana agriculture and agribusiness only increasing in years to come.
“Agriculture is entwined in every aspect of our lives through the basic essentials of food, clothing and shelter,” Hall says. “I don’t see that changing soon.”
The agriculture industry will likely maintain a strong presence visually in the amount of farmland one can see, and physically through its contribution to the state into the foreseeable future, Hall says.
“I would posit that agriculture’s contribution will continue to grow simply due to the renewed fervor in promoting agricultural innovation,” she explains.
Advancements in technology used for row-crop production, including genetics to increase yields or make crops drought resistant; crop management, through soil and yield mapping and variable rate fertilizer application; and the use of more advanced tractors, combines and auto-pilot systems are being seen across the state.
“Farmers are now using data more frequently to optimize their farming practices,” Hall says. “The sheer amount of knowledge and technology utilized by farmers will only expand. With these advances in technology, the future is pretty bright for row crop businesses.”