Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack visited Indiana Tuesday, touting the growth of a new energy economy and re-purposing of some factories hit hard by the auto industry slowdown.
At a community forum at the Hendricks County fairgrounds in Danville, the former Iowa Governor talked about how his home state — dotted by scores of corn farms — is benefiting from an embrace of wind farms.
“We saw turbine manufacturing companies locate in Iowa,” Vilsack said. “We’re seeing new community college programs based on the maintenance of windmills.”
Indiana Future Farmers of America President Laura Ann Donaldson introduced Vilsack to the crowd and said she’s seen resistance to wind farming from some who live near her Newton County home.
“My parents actually sat on a committee to try to get a wind farm into a township that we farm in,” Donaldson said. “That, unfortunately, did not pan out like we had expected it to, but fortunately for our neighboring farms, there were quite a few wind towers that have come on. I think that the farmers only having to give up an acre of land to reap great financial benefits is a great asset to being able to have value-added agriculture in my home area.”
Vilsack fielded questions from the crowd of more than a hundred in attendance about increasing the nation’s food supply, protecting the reputation of the country’s pork producers and even opportunites for beekeepers under the Obama Administration. The Ag. Secretary said there are a number of misconceptions which must be cleared up, including debates about whether to use food as fuel. In addition, Vilsack said he’s working with Energy Secretary Steven Chu to determine the future of plants in places like Indiana which once manufactured auto parts. In the future, Vilsack said, the factories could once again produce steel plating and fan blades, but for wind turbines instead of cars.